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Tuition hike shows colleges are tone deaf

Pennsylvania boosted funding for public colleges and universities this year using American Rescue Plan Act funds, providing an extra $125 million — a move we support.

The response to this infusion of cash — raise prices. Again.

Republican state legislators admonished the schools — Penn State, Pitt, Lincoln and Temple — when, despite a 5% increase in funds, they announced that the cost of attendance was going up.

“It would only be prudent to roll back these decisions for all students, but at a minimum, for Pennsylvania residents attending your institutions,” the GOP caucus said in a letter to the universities in response.

The colleges’ answer: Nope.

As reported by The Associated Press, the four private — but state-funded — institutions all plan to move forward with increases, making it even harder for average families to send their children to college.

According to the report, in-state students will see tuition hikes of 2 to 5% at Penn State, depending which campus they attend. Pitt plans increases of 2 to 3.5%, while Temple is raising its rates by almost 4%.

Along with Lincoln, which is raising tuition by less than 1%, the schools received $597 million from the state government in this year’s budget.

And tuition is only part of the cost — room and board, books and miscellaneous fees drive the price up even further.

Collegedata.com reports an average annual “sticker price” of $26,820 for public schools (and the reduction for in-state students only impacts that slightly — their average annual cost is $22,690 per year).

Raising tuition and other costs is nothing new in higher education — My eLearning World estimates that the cost of college has risen at nearly five times the rate of inflation over the past half century.

If the cost had simply kept pace with inflation, the cost of a public university would be less than half of what it is today.

The leaders of these state facilities would be wise to rethink their decisions, especially as families are finding it harder to survive while costs for basic necessities spiral.

The House leadership states its case well: “Rather than take a punitive posture toward Pennsylvania’s students and families attending your institutions by raising tuition and fees, the recent funding news coupled with large endowments upon which you can rely to help offset inflation-led cost increases makes now the perfect time to reverse course on tuition increases.”

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