Republicans in our state Legislature are right to question tuition increases at four public-affiliated universities.
The universities — Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln — are receiving a $30 million boost from Gov. Tom Wolf, using money from the federal government.
The universities in question are not truly public universities, at least not in the sense that Bloomsburg or Lock Haven or any of the 14 schools governed by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are.
They have a degree of autonomy that the state-system schools do not. And we would argue that they lack several degrees of transparency and accountability to which our state government can hold our state system schools.
A spokesperson for Temple University argues it wouldn’t be prudent to use the one-time sum from Gov. Wolf’s office to offset recurring operations, the Associated Press explained in an article in Friday’s edition of the Sun-Gazette.
It’s a fair point. But — the $30 million is not the only money the quasi-independent schools receive from public sources. While the state may be reluctant in some years to increase its appropriation to the schools, they still receive state funding.
And it is hardly the first year in any number of years for these schools to increase tuition rates. Penn State increased tuition by about 2.5 percent for in-state students in 2021. Penn State increased tuition in 2017 for the 2017-18 year by about 2.74 percent and in 2016 for the 2016-17 year by about 1.7 percent. The school increased tuition by 1.2 to nearly 3 percent for the 2014-15 year, depending on the campus.
While we don’t know that our Republican legislators need to become too bogged down on the one-time $30 million pass-through from Gov. Wolf and federal funding, the trend of the state-affiliated universities to increase costs on students rather than manage their ample budgets more realistically is worth questioning, and we appreciate that Republicans in our state House and Senate are willing to ask those questions.