HARRISBURG, February 4, 2013 – On Friday, Gov. Tom Corbett announced that his budget proposal will include level funding for state and state-related universities in Pennsylvania, but state Sen. Daylin Leach (D-Montgomery/Delaware) has pointed out that “level funding”, in fact, may not be all that it seems.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the national consumer price index has risen by 1.7 percent in the past year. Additionally, Kevin Carey, the director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation recently made mention to NPR that college tuition typically increases much faster than both inflation and incomes. “Every year, [it increases] 2 or 3 or 4 percent above the inflation rate, to the point where college is now four times more expensive than it was, say 20 or 30 years ago,” Carey said during that interview.
That means, Leach noted, that the costs of running a university have increased as funding has remained stagnant. Indeed, the College Board Advocacy and Policy Center’s Trends in College Pricing 2012 and Trends in Student Aid 2012 report found that average published tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year colleges and universities increased from $8,256 in 2011-12 to $8,655 in 2012-13.
“On its face, this announcement sounds like a great deal for college students and their families,” Leach said. “But providing colleges and universities the same level of funding as last year fails to take rising costs and expenditures into consideration, and thus fails to provide adequate resources.”
According to the most recent financial statements from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), contributions from the General Fund have declined as has enrollment in the state and state-related universities. The 2011-2012 school year saw an enrollment decrease of 1 percent, resulting in a loss of revenue to the schools. At the same time, costs and tuition rates rose by 7.5 percent that year and fees increased by 9.4 percent.
Leach added, “As you can see, these numbers are from school years passed, but we know our economy has continued its downward trajectory. The bottom line is that even though there will not be significant cuts made this year, Pennsylvania’s schools and students still deserve better.”