Wolf proposes funding bump for state universities in exchange for flat tuition

    Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf proposed big increases in higher education funding, and schools are starting to get back to him about whether they’d be able to keep tuition increases low — or nonexistent — in return.

    Wolf’s budget includes an $81 million bump in state funding for the four state-supported schools: Pitt, Penn State, Temple, and Lincoln.

    In return, the governor asked them to keep any tuition increases within the rate of inflation.All four have agreed, though some hedged their bets, including Temple President Neil Theobald.

    “If the amount of funding that is mentioned in the governor’s proposal were to be forthcoming, I would see no issue in tuition being cost-of-living or less,” Theobald said.

    But Penn State President Eric Barron left room for the possibility Wolf’s funding increase wouldn’t come through.

    “If the governor’s request were to become reality at Penn State University,” Barron said, “I would recommend to the board that all campuses have no increase for in-state students.”

    Patrick Gallagher, chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh, says he thinks any tuition hikes will be low, but he’s not committing to flat tuition.

    “My expectations are always to have the tuition increases as low as possible,” Gallagher said, “and I was very pleased to see the governor’s budget draft. And in fact it was consistent with our initial request to the commonwealth, which was that these types of increases would allow us to keep tuition increases below inflation, and that would be our goal going in.”

    Pitt is slated to receive nearly 15 million dollars, a nearly 11 percent increase in state aid.

    Valerie Harrison, acting president of Lincoln University, says students who began at Lincoln last fall won’t see a tuition increase, but rates will increase for new students.

    “The freshmen who come in the fall of 2015 will only experience a modest increase of 2.5 percent,” Harrison said.

    Lincoln is proposed to receive $921,000.

    For the 14 state-owned universities, Wolf proposed an 11 percent bump in state funding — $45 million extra — in return for a freeze in tuition. However, the chancellor of the system has refused, saying that kind of commitment is “impossible.”

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