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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration

Tuition: Mo’ Money Mo’ Problems

Let’s face it, we go to a great university and that comes with costs of being a competitive school. But how high is too high? In 2000, tuition was a little over $3,000 per semester and now it’s over $5,500! Do you want change? Learn about the issues and first and act. There are too many reasons for the increases, I won’t list them all, but here’s the gist…

The state does not give us enough money. Per full time student, we receive less money from the state than any other Big Ten school.

Funding has shifted in Pennsylvania toward need-based support rather than base institutional support. A higher education is seen as an investment and the state wants to keep income taxes low so they shift the burden towards us. But that’s not the whole story.

Right now PA legislators are asking that Penn State release a more detailed budget so they can hold the administration accountable for how they spend the appropriations.

Penn State will not comply but replies that they are pinching every penny. But in doing so they let go the free legal services to students. (It is estimated that cost roughly $20,000/ year where there operating budget is over 1.5 billion dollars). Way to appropriately and meaningfully “pinch” those pennies.

Another problem within the university is the mind set that higher demand (increased applications) gives license to raise student costs exponentially. The Penn State Tuition Task Force assessed the situation and said this:

“Strong student demand for admission and significant tuition rate increases by peer institutions suggest that tuition adjustments can be implemented, particularly at the University Park campus.”

That means they find it acceptable to treat us like customers and not students, a mindset some administrators have admitted holding. Mind-boggling.

A big problem in the Big 10, is that we are the most expensive school by over $2,000. We are $3,000 over the average. Iowa costs half the price.

There needs to be a medium between being a competitive academic school and a competitively-priced school. The administration cannot or refuses to find this medium.

While it’s not easy, we need to remember that Penn State was founded as a university to serve the average Pennsylvanian. Penn State, with its astronomical tuition, is hard-pressed to serve the average middle class Pennsylvanian.. No wonder the average senior leaves here with $20,000 in debt.

But how do we even begin to fix the problem?

  • We need to be active and engaged in order to make changes.
  • Write letters to our state legislators. Tell them Penn State needs to be recognized for the benefits this university offers to the community and act accordingly in appropriations..
  • Visit President Spanier’s open office hours ask, thank him for his commitment to the school and ask that he fully open the budget to appease the state to receive more funds.
  • Ask President Spanier also to release the cost of tuition for the upcoming academic year much earlier in the current academic year to give time to students/families to adjust.
  • Lobby the administration for a tier tuition system. Penn State could put each incoming class in a tier system where each class pays a different price. Tuition should not increase more than 5% each year for each class. This lets incoming students know the maximum price they will pay over the next four years.

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As an alum, I can’t in good conscience lobby state legislators to provide even more money to one of its state related (NOT state owned, like other Big 10 schools) institutions in excess of the over $300 million it provides, until the massive capital expansion and increasing class sizes are justified. Penn State is a land grant school- but that doesn’t mean it’s supposed to be a public high school. Penn State should committ to a given enrollment, and cut back on spending. Then, I’ll be more than willing to ask Harrisburg to chip in more, provided it goes towards educational expenses, and not toward services expansion-related debt, as Tysen Kendig has admitted,


I find myself between your argument and Andy’s. If the State gives PSU more money, A) there is no promise WE, the students, will get any reprieve from skyrocketing tuition costs; and B) it will filter out as a tax raise, and one way or another it will still end up costing us (either from our paychecks or our parent’s, depending on who is footing the bill). I do agree that we need to write legislators and visit President Spanier’s office; however, I think the focus should be on making the budget public and transparent. We should ask for more pressure to be put on the administrators to be up-front, and show us how they are going to solve the solution. Something should be said for the fact that when I arrived in 2004 as a freshman, my tuition was somewhere just over $5,000 a semester. This year, it is sitting just over $7,000. That’s a whopping 40% increase since freshman year. How on earth do they explain that? Inflation? Drastic increase in the quality of my education? Unless 5 major projects (New Health Services, Food Science, Business, Forestry, and West Campus Gymnasium buildings, of which MAYBE I could see the need for H.S.) and the purchase of a law school, have improved my educational experience, I see no viable explanation for jacking up MY costs.

Bottom line, the only way tuition will return to a reasonable and competitive level, is if President Spanier abandons his campaign to transform Penn State into an ivy league school. The reckless spending needs to stop, because it certainly is NOT “in the budget”.

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