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Fifth year of tuition freeze approved

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(The Center Square) — Following on the heels of an expected 6% increase in funding from the General Assembly, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education voted to freeze tuition for the fifth year in a row.

The 6% represents a $33 million increase over last year, though it’s a 2% overall increase because the General Assembly only provides about 30% of the system’s total revenues, Chancellor Dan Greenstein said.

“These are cautiously exciting times for the state system,” Board of Governors Chairwoman Cynthia Shapira said. “We are seeing the fruits of our labor.”

Greenstein called the increase “an incredible boost and shot in the arm for the system.”

Keeping tuition level, however, requires university officials to spend wisely and make every dollar count.

“We’re still $30-ish million out of being able to keep pace with inflation,” Greenstein said. “But at the same time it means we’re going to have to work together to continue to exercise stewardship to ensure that we manage the funds that we have in a way which advantages our students to the best possible ability.”

During last year’s budget negotiations, Greenstein offered a growth plan to attract more students and fill a talent gap for professions facing shortages in Pennsylvania.

“Enrollment growth in particular will drive revenues,” Greenstein said.

The system’s plan is based on recruiting new students and retaining the students who do enroll, he said.

Rep. Brad Roae, R-Meadville, a member of the system board, said, “We thought it was really important that the system try to freeze tuition again, and with the high cost of higher education, even the smallest tuition increases can keep higher ed where some people can’t afford to do it.”

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