The Board of Governors for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education for the first time in its 38-year history recently froze basic in-state tuition for a second consecutive year, even while confronting financial challenges brought on in part by the coronavirus pandemic.
Basic in-state tuition for undergraduate students at the system’s 14 universities will remain at $7,716 for the 2020-21 academic year. Also remaining the same will be the system’s technology fee for students, which stands at $478 for the academic year. The Board voted to freeze tuition and the technology fee unanimously.
“We are united in believing that even under these historic, extraordinary circumstances, the State System must maintain its affordability and not pass the burden of these times onto our students,” said Cindy Shapira, chair of the Board of Governors. “While the coronavirus has impacted so much of our society and economy, what remains the same is our mission to provide quality, affordable, accessible public higher education.”
Prior to last year, only once – the 1998-99 academic year – did the board approve a year-to-year tuition freeze. It has never before frozen tuition for two consecutive years.
“Pennsylvania will recover from this pandemic, and our outstanding universities will have a role in leading the recovery,” Chancellor Dan Greenstein said. “To be a leader will take courage, and the board showed that kind of courage today by choosing to be on the side of students and affordability. We will be here to educate the business, healthcare, education, and community leaders of tomorrow by maintaining our place as the affordable higher education option for students of the commonwealth.”
In other board action:
-- The State System approved a 10-year loan up to $6 million to Mansfield University, a measure that will support the 163-year-old institution with a path toward fiscal sustainability and accountability. Mansfield University must submit a fiscal sustainability report to the chancellor before the promissory note is executed and afterwards achieve clear cost-saving measures to be reviewed by the chancellor.
“This measure will help ensure the Northern Tier has the higher education and economic development resources it needs for the future,” Greenstein said. “It comes with measurable outcomes and meaningful accountability, and I’m confident Mansfield’s leadership already has this proud institution moving in the right direction.”
-- The board also approved an extension of a retirement incentive program to five collective bargaining units, making about 460 employees newly eligible.
The program now applies to qualifying members of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Service Employees International Union Local 668 (SEIU), Office and Professional Employees International Union Healthcare Pennsylvania (OPEIU), PASSHE Officers Association (POA), and International Union, Security, Police, and Fire Professionals of America (SPFPA). The board also granted the chancellor authority to develop similar arrangements for the other employees within the system.
The program provides an enhanced sick leave payout if employees retire on or before Sept. 25, 2020.
The program began earlier this year with the Association of Pennsylvania University State College & University Faculty, and 220 APSCUF members opted into the program.
“This program honors, in many cases, decades of service to a State System university,” Greenstein said. “Choosing to retire is a significant life decision, and we hope eligible employees will consider this incentive carefully.”
Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education oversees 14 four-year public universities educating more than 95,000 students. The State System offers more than 2,300 degrees and certificates in more than 530 academic areas. The State System universities are: Shippensburg, Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities of Pennsylvania.