State universities' chief says tuition rates uncertain

| 24 Mar 2015 | 12:50

— The chancellor for Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities told lawmakers on March 18 that he cannot promise to freeze tuition rates, something Gov. Tom Wolf wants in return for a significant funding increase.

Chancellor Frank Brogan said in testimony before the Senate Appropriations Committee that the State System of Higher Education's board of governors, not Brogan, sets the tuition rate. But the board will not do that until its July meeting, after lawmakers are scheduled to adjourn for their summer recess.

“This board of governors doesn't like to increase tuition," he said under persistent questioning by Sen. Andy Dinniman, D-Chester.

Brogan said system officials want to “to see how this plays out" as legislators work to craft a state budget for the fiscal year that starts July 1.

“Commitments today without the ability to forecast where all of this is going to go at the end of the day (don't) give anybody any kind of advantage," the chancellor said.

Wolf has proposed a $45.3 million boost in funding for the system, slightly less than the system is requesting. Still, if the Democratic governor's request is approved, it would represent an unprecedented 11 percent increase for the system, said spokesman Kenn Marshall.

In his March 3 budget address, the Democratic governor said the increase represents half of the roughly $90 million that was cut from the system's budget during the Corbett administration.

“I am calling on our institutions of higher education to freeze tuition," Wolf said in his speech, “and I expect them to answer that call."

Wolf spokesman Jeffrey Sheridan said that the tuition freeze is only a request, not a mandatory condition for the increase his boss has proposed for the system.

“At this point, it's not mandatory, it's not a part of legislation," he said.

The governor did not seek a tuition freeze from the four “state-related" universities — Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln — but asked them to keep tuition as low as possible, Sheridan said.

About 112,000 students are enrolled at the universities that make up the system: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.