PENNSYLVANIA University students plea for lower tuition

Students believe the cost of a higher education is getting out of hand.
HARRISBURG (AP) -- Students who attend Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities are asking the system's governing board to consider raising tuition by a rate lower than the 5 percent increase proposed for the 2003-04 school year.
Resident undergraduate students would pay $4,598 annually in tuition, an increase of $220, under the tuition rate recommended by Judy Hample, chancellor of the State System of Higher Education.
The board of governors is scheduled to consider the proposal at a special meeting today. Some students have mailed letters to the board opposing the increase, and others are expected to make their case in person.
"Being part of the state system, we're supposed to be able to get a good public education cheap," said Kristin Albright, president of Millersville University's Student Senate. "If tuition keeps going up, it won't be possible for a lot of students to go, including me, because the tuition is too high."
Albright is among about 100 students who participated in a letter-writing campaign, out of a total system enrollment of more than 101,000. The students are asking the board to limit any increase to 3 percent at the most, or $130 a year.
The campaign
Two student members of the governing board, Brandon Danz of Millersville University and Ronald Strickler Jr. of Lock Haven University, organized the campaign.
They said their activism was prompted by a survey conducted in the spring to gauge students' concerns about tuition. Two-thirds of the 700 students who responded said they are already struggling to pay for college and an increase could force them to leave.
"More students than a lot of people think are struggling to get by because the affordability of college is just getting out of hand," Danz said.
In addition to the tuition increase, Hample has asked the universities to reduce spending by a combined $40 million to help compensate for a 5 percent state funding cut. She has said the spending cuts would mean leaving job vacancies open, increasing class sizes and delaying maintenance projects and equipment purchases.
If the board approved a 3 percent tuition increase, an additional $10 million in spending cuts would be required to balance the system's budget, board chairman Charles Gomulka said. The system and its 5,500-member faculty union are also trying to negotiate a new contract.
"It's almost an impossibility when you look at where we're at," he said of the likelihood of a lower tuition increase. "We're dealing with a lot of unknowns right now."
Last year, the board approved a 9 percent increase for resident undergraduates -- the system's largest increase ever -- after state aid was reduced by 3 percent. It also introduced a $100 technology fee.
The board postponed setting tuition earlier this month at Gov. Ed Rendell's request, hoping lawmakers would restore university funding cuts as they negotiated a plan to boost funding to public schools.

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