CENTRE COUNTY, Pa. (WHTM) — Despite Governor Tom Wolf’s efforts to steer extra funding to Penn State University, the school announced a tuition hike last week, causing lawmakers to call for tuition freezes and rollbacks.
While Penn State is technically categorized as a non-preferred school along with Temple University, University of Pittsburgh, and Lincoln University, it was flat-funded in the most recent budget, which means they got the same amount as money as last year.
Get daily news, weather, breaking news and alerts straight to your inbox! Sign up for the abc27 newsletters here.
Governor Wolf, however, was able to steer an additional $40 million of Federal Rescue Plan dollars to those schools to help with inflation. Despite the five percent increase in funding, Penn State is still raising tuition by five percent for the students.
Republican Gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano sent Penn State a letter asking that they freeze tuition given the state’s contributions and the pain that families are feeling.
abc27’s Dennis Owens spoke with Governor Wolf on Tuesday, July 26, and asked him about the Mastriano letter and the tuition increase. It may not surprise many that he does not support Mastriano’s speech.
“I would prefer to let the universities and colleges all around the Commonwealth make their own decision on that” Gov. Wolf said. “In terms of raising the tuition, I’m sorry they’re doing that. I think everybody’s dealing with the impact of inflation here and how do we make sure we’re keeping up with the expenses they’re facing and families are facing.”
The school’s general appropriations from the state are $242 million, which it has been for the past three years. They also approved an across-the-board salary increase of two and a half percent for all employees.
“I’d really love to see an increase to our base because we are grateful for the funds,” said Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi. “But anything that’s one time you can’t really spend as if it’s there forever. It’s not fiscally prudent.”
On Tuesday Penn State released a statement regarding the funding plan:
“While we have heard that Gov. Wolf plans to provide Penn State with approximately $12 million in one-time federal funds from the American Recovery Plan dollars provided to the state, the university has not received official written notice that it will receive these funds nor how they would be required to be used.”
Penn State is not alone with its tuition hikes; the University of Pittsburgh increased tuition by 3.5%, Temple raised its by 3.9%, and Lincoln University by 4%.
State Rep. Jerry Knowles (R-Berks/Carbon/Schuylkill) tried to block all state funding until the four universities vowed not to do research on fetal tissue from elective abortions, something Pitt does. Knowles says the Governor’s extra cash just rewards what he calls bad behavior.
“They’re sitting back laughing and hootin’ and hollerin’ and thumbing their nose at us,” claimed Knowles.
On Wednesday Republican House caucus leaders sent a leader to the four universities asking them to roll back plans to increase tuition and fees for the upcoming academic year.
“We were disappointed to learn that almost immediately after your FY 2022-23 state funding was approved, Pitt, Penn State and Temple announced tuition increases for the coming academic year. In at least two instances, the state flat-funding appropriations over last year was cited as a cause for the tuition increase,” the leaders wrote.
“Given the recent news about receiving additional funding for the 2022-23 academic year, it would only be prudent to roll back these decisions for all students, but at a minimum, for Pennsylvania residents attending your institutions.”
The letter was signed by all eight members of the House Republican Leadership team:
- House Majority Leader Kerry Benninghoff (R-Centre/Mifflin)
- Speaker Bryan Cutler (R-Lancaster)
- House Appropriations Committee Chairman Stan Saylor (R-York)
- House Majority Whip Donna Oberlander (R-Clarion/Armstrong/Forest)
- House Republican Caucus Chairman George Dunbar (R-Westmoreland)
- House Republican Caucus Secretary Martina White (R-Philadelphia)
- House Republican Caucus Administrator Kurt Masser (R-Northumberland/Columbia/Montour)
- House Republican Policy Chairman Martin Causer (R-McKean/Potter/Cameron)
Schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which includes Bloomsburg, Mansfield, and Shippensburg, recently extended tuition freezes. The 14-state university system received a 16% increase in funding from the state, now receiving $552 million plus $125 million in one-time federal economic recovery funds after years of what they called ‘chronic underfunding.’