Budget Update: Uncertain Circumstances Delay Finalizing 2015–16 Fiscal Plans, Tuition Pilot

Posted on 4/17/2015 8:44:36 AM

As you have probably already seen in the media, the Board of Governors acted last week on Governor Wolf’s request for a tuition freeze.

The board narrowly passed the following motion from board member Rep. Mike Hanna:

The PASSHE Board of Governors, in exchange for the $45.3 million in additional state funding as proposed by Governor Wolf, commits PASSHE to a general tuition and instructional fee freeze, subject to the final determination by the PASSHE Board of Governors.

This motion makes the one-year tuition freeze contingent on receiving $45.3 million in additional appropriation and reinforces the board's authority and responsibility to set tuition. In light of this development, I have chosen to defer the per-credit tuition pilot for one year. While the tuition pilot affords a fair solution to students at a time the university needs to stabilize the budget, we recognize that it creates a financial burden to some. Given this board action and to give IUP families the chance to plan, deferring is the right thing to do at this time.

Deferring the tuition pilot might mean that students could have fewer scheduling options in the near future, but we are committed to keeping the cost of education as low as possible as we move toward a sustainable budget model. To be clear, deferring the pilot signifies that IUP will not in the coming year implement the per-credit tuition pricing or the need- or merit-based scholarships that are associated with it. Rather, students in the coming year will pay flat-rate tuition.

“Uncertainty” appears to be the word of the day; however, I remind you that budget uncertainty is not unusual for this time of year. We typically don’t know how many dollars in state funds IUP will receive until June 30 or later. The Board of Governors usually doesn’t set tuition rates until its July meeting.

In the face of this year’s uncertainty, we will do what we have always done. We will provide students and prospective students with our best estimates of their cost of attendance, knowing that the estimates may change by the start of classes. We will develop a few most-likely budget scenarios to guide our work in the weeks ahead and hope to be in a position to share more details with the University Budget Advisory Committee at its April 28 meeting. Unfortunately, we may need to make some key decisions this summer, when many of you are away. I will make sure to keep you informed about our progress via e-mail.

In the near term, we must do two things to help reduce any further negative impact on the 2015-16 budget. First, enrollment is ever more important. Please do anything you can to encourage our current students to reenroll and to encourage potential students to make a deposit and register. Second, we may need to be even more cautious with financial resources than usual. Please look at all potential operating and personnel expenses with a critical eye. Anything that can be deferred or done at less expense in the short term may help us to stay on track and avoid more painful alternatives.

While the board’s action and the decision to defer the pilot may delay progress toward the goals of our three-pronged budget approach, I am certain of two things.  First, it’s really nice to be talking about Pennsylvania reinvesting in the State System.  Second, at IUP, we will continue to work together as a community to achieve our vision. I'm pleased by the messages I’m already receiving from members of our university community, expressing their strong support for the collegial, team approach to determining our future. We are in this together, and I am confident that, in spite of the challenges we must overcome, together we will be successful.

Michael A. Driscoll