The thermometer is pushing 90, but colder times are on the minds of Pennsylvania’s public university officials. You might say a real freeze.
Temple University’s board of trustees voted Tuesday to freeze tuition and fees for the school’s in-state students next year. Meanwhile, leaders of Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities are contemplating a freeze, which would be the system’s first in more than 20 years. The board of governors will meet Wednesday to vote.
And Pennsylvania State University’s board will meet next week to decide on tuition and fees.
Temple and Penn State are not part of the 14-state university system. They are what’s known as state-related. More about that later.
At Temple, in-state students will pay $16,080 in tuition for the second consecutive year under the plan approved by the board of trustees. About three-quarters of Temple students are from Pennsylvania. (Out-of-state students face a 2.9 percent or $818 tuition hike, for a total of $28,994.)
Mandatory fees will be frozen for all students at $890.
The university last froze tuition in 2012-13.
“This is a testament to the trustees’ recognition that the cost of tuition is critically important for students and their families,” the university’s president, Richard M. Englert, said in a statement.
He credited outgoing board chairman Patrick O’Connor, whom he described as the “driving force” behind the measure.
Englert also said the freeze was possible in part because of the state legislature, which included a 2 percent increase in funding for the university, raising its appropriation to $158.2 million.
“By investing in higher education, they are ensuring a better future for Pennsylvania’s families,” Englert said in the statement.
Temple is one of four state-related universities in Pennsylvania. The other three — Penn State, the University of Pittsburgh, and Lincoln University — also received a 2 percent boost, as did the 14 state universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
The state-related universities get some funding from the state, but they are considered partially private and are not fully under the state’s Right-to-Know law.
They also are more expensive than the universities in the state system.
The 14 state universities are: West Chester, Cheyney, Clarion, Bloomsburg, California, Edinboro, East Stroudsburg, Indiana, Lock Haven, Kutztown, Mansfield, Millersville, Slippery Rock, and Shippensburg.
The state system last froze tuition in 1998-99, according to system spokesperson David Pidgeon.
A freeze in tuition and fees for in-state students is one of several options being considered for 2019-20, he said.
“We are taking a real hard look at that,” Pidgeon said. “Attending a public university in Pennsylvania has to be high quality, but it also has to be affordable. We are certainly conscious of the time that has passed since the last time tuition was frozen."
The system’s board of governors will meet at 1 p.m. Wednesday to discuss the issue and vote.
If base tuition were frozen, in-state students, who make up nearly 90 percent of the system’s nearly 100,000 enrollment, would pay $7,716 for the 2019-20 year, the same as in 2018-19. The board also will consider freezing fees, he said.
Out-of-state students currently pay between $11,574 and $19,290 in tuition, Pidgeon said. It’s not clear what, if any, increase they could face, he said.
Universities have to carefully balance tuition costs with the quality of education they offer and rising costs they face. When schools freeze tuition, they still must pay increased salary costs dictated by contracts and cover inflationary increases in operations.
That can be particularly difficult for Pennsylvania’s state system, which has been bleeding enrollment for years. Last year, enrollment at the 14 state universities fell below 100,000 for the first time since 2001. The system is in the middle of a redesign that officials hope will stem the losses and help the schools thrive.
While receiving the boost in state funding, the system’s $477 million allocation was about $29 million less than it asked for. That’s another challenge the system’s leaders will have to face — how to make up that money.
“There are certainly hard decisions ahead of us,” Pidgeon said.
Cheyney, a historically black university in the system, has faced particularly hard challenges that have left its continued accreditation in question. The state legislature approved an additional $1.7 million to support Cheyney’s Keystone Honors Academy, which provides full scholarships to academically gifted students. The academy received a total appropriation of $3.98 million. That funding is in addition to the state system’s main appropriation.
Penn State is scheduled to vote on tuition at the board’s meeting next week.
In-state freshmen and sophomores on Penn State’s main campus paid $17,416 in tuition last year. Out-of-state students paid $32,644.