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PENNSYLVANIA UNIVERSITIES Students flee as tuition increases

Thursday, August 7, 2003

WVU charges out-of-staters about the same as what Pitt charges in-staters.
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) -- The rising cost of tuition at Pennsylvania's public colleges and universities could end up benefiting other states, according to some school officials.
Brenda Thompson, assistant vice president for enrollment management at West Virginia University, said higher tuition in Pennsylvania is an asset to her institution, which charges out-of-state students about what Penn State and other state-supported schools charge in-state students.
"It does help us attract students," Thompson said. "Although, I'm sure none of the parents are probably as pleased."
The numbers
Resident undergraduate students at Pennsylvania's public colleges and universities are seeing tuition rise between 5 percent and 16 percent annually.
Students living on campus at the state-owned universities, such as Shippensburg and Millersville, now are looking at tuition bills of more than $10,000 a year. That bill runs about $15,000 a year for Pennsylvanians who want to live on campus at Penn State, Pitt and Temple, all state-supported schools.
By contrast, the University of South Carolina charges $12,000 annually for out-of-state students to live on campus.
Pennsylvania's public universities last year ranked as the third most expensive in the nation, according to the College Board.
Heading to other states is a viable option for families to save money on college, said Will Doyle, senior policy analyst for the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
"The hurdles you have to go over to get in college can just be staggering for students to overcome," Doyle said. "We'd like to see increasing prices not be another one."
Pennsylvania higher education officials say they are concerned about the rising costs but insist that the increases are necessary to keep up their quality.
"We share our students' concerns about the affordability issue and that was one of the main motivations to keeping tuition [increase] as low as 5 percent this year," said Tom Gluck, a State System of Higher Education spokesman.
Students, however, say schools can do more.
"Students can't keep up," said Edinboro University senior Dan DiNicola of Erie, who said he expects to be $10,000 in debt upon graduation, despite working two jobs.
Faster pace
Unlike other states, Pennsylvania's tuition rates have increased at a faster pace than financial aid and inflation, according to a report last fall by the National Center for Public Policy and Higher Education.
Since June 2002, the Consumer Price Index has risen 2.1 percent, compared to the 5 percent to 16 percent tuition increases at the state's public universities.
College officials argue that they must keep salaries competitive to retain good professors, and that insurance rates, technology upgrades and library resources are growing ever more costly.
This year, Gov. Ed Rendell and state lawmakers cut funding to the public universities by 5 percent, which follows other cuts in recent years.
Pennsylvania ranks 44th of the 50 states in terms of its per-capita support for higher education, Doyle said.