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(Editor’s Note: Many Pennsylvanians don’t realize the differences that exist among the commonwealth’s “public” universities in terms of their governance and what they charge students. Bill Schackner’s article addresses the latter issue.)

“Issues of Cost and Access”

On July 18, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported on the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s tuition increase for 2008-2009. “Starting this fall,” reporter Bill Schackner wrote, “Pennsylvanians will pay $181 more for a year’s undergraduate tuition at any of the 14 state-owned universities.”

“In one respect,” he continued, “it’s more sour news in a state with public college prices that are already among the most expensive. But the 3.5 percent increase for 2008-09 also marks the fourth straight year the State System of Higher Education has kept tuition hikes at or below the rate of inflation. The increase, approved yesterday, brings the base yearly tuition to $5,358 at the 14 schools including California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities in Western Pennsylvania.

“By curbing increases since 2005, the State System is offering its 110,000 students price relief not seen at the state-related University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University. At those two schools, the region’s largest, main base tuition increases far outpaced inflation much of the past decade, rising in a single year by as much as 14 percent.”

Schackner reported base tuition for 2008-09 had risen by 6 percent at Pitt, to $12,832, and by 5.9 percent at Penn State, to $13,014.

He noted that “Some who follow issues of cost and access are of two minds about Pennsylvania’s latest price trends—heartened on the one hand that State System increases have slowed, but also troubled by the price disparity now separating the system schools from state-related schools including Pitt and Penn State.

“In 1998, roughly $2,400 separated yearly tuition charged by the State System from the base main campus rate at Pitt or Penn State. The difference now exceeds $7,400.”

Schackner cautioned that “The new State System tuition does not reflect other costs. Including a $6 technology fee increase approved yesterday, total in-state charges for tuition, required fees, and room and board will average about $13,000.

“Still, the smaller tuition increases have brought the State System closer to the College Board’s national tuition average for public campuses: $166 above it as of 2007-08, versus $698 above it five years ago.”

James Begany, IUP’s associate vice president for Enrollment Management, said, “With inflation putting pressure on higher education costs, it’s very satisfying the State System is able to offer a high-quality education at an affordable tuition.”

The entire Post-Gazette article is available on the newspaper’s website at www.post-gazette.com.

IUP’s Out-of-State Rate

Again this year, non-Pennsylvania residents can take advantage of undergraduate tuition savings at IUP. The discounts pertain to any student from the following states: Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Virginia, and West Virginia.

What’s more, students from the other forty-four states qualify for discounts if they have earned a cumulative grade-point average of 3.0 or better. Freshmen must have earned a minimum 3.0 on a 4.0 GPA scale or an 85 percent on a percentage scale. Transfer students must have earned a cumulative 3.0 GPA at all institutions attended before enrolling at IUP (continued below chart).

Tuition Comparison

A trend toward more modest tuition increases across the State System of Higher Education has brought its 14 state universities closer to the national price average for public campuses. At the same time, a price disparity separating those campuses from the main campuses of the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University has grown.

Tuition comparison chart

Information about the tuition differential for nonresidents can be found in the Financing Your Education section at www.iup.edu/admissions/undergraduate. Information is also available by calling the Office of Admissions at 724-357-2230 or by sending e-mail to admissions-inquiry@iup.edu.

Illustration copyright, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 2008, all rights reserved. Reprinted with permission.