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  • Why Bloated Tuition Is Bedeviling Students in Pennsylvania

    2/26/2013 3:50:15 PM Posted by Stephen Smoot

     College costs money.  It costs tuition paying students and taxpayers alike.  Taxpayers pay when the state directly supports a school and also when the federal government subsidizes loans.  Some states work hard to try and keep cYMIGosts down, but one state’s system stands out in particular as an offender against the taxpayer.

    Pennsylvania. According to the U.S. Department of Education, of the top 30 highest tuitions charged by public colleges and universities in the United States, 22 of them are in Pennsylvania.  And most of those are branch campuses of Pennsylvania State.  The Commonwealth Foundation reported that tuition at Penn State more than doubled since 2000, this despite “significant taxpayer subsidies.”

    A student struggling to figure out how to pay for tuition might forgive a main campus for high tuition rates.  Paying top professors to stay put, supporting advanced research, offering a wide variety of interesting, but not always popular courses are all reasons why tuition might rise.  The Pennsylvania State system, however, charges over $12,000 to attend its branch campuses!

    Is there really ground breaking research by world renowned experts at Penn State-Altoona?  Does a degree from there guarantee a job in today’s tight market?  The cost of a degree should have some relationship to the earning potential of the student.  Four years of attending a university branch campus should not break the bank.

    Comparing sample subjects, there is little difference between the course offerings at Penn State-Altoona ($13,250) and West Virginia University-Parkersburg ($2,076.)  In either case, the student earns a useable degree from a branch campus of a respected state university.

    Tuition hikes and state subsidies in Pennsylvania have not helped the students much. The Commonwealth Foundation reports that Penn State administrative staff numbers jumped over 70 percent between 1993 and 2007.  Meanwhile, institutions in Virginia and West Virginia kept costs down by sharing faculty and increasing teaching loads.

    Pennsylvania students carry the burden for years to come.  A study states that students from that commonwealth carry some of the highest student debt in the nation.  Student aid struggles to keep pace with costs.  Despite the backbreaking costs, contact between undergraduate students and faculty has dropped by almost 30 percent at Penn State.

    Cato Institute’s Neal McCluskey in CQ Researcher last month described a strong correlation between increases in student aid and rises in tuition. In the last 25 years, aid rose by $10,293 per student while costs increased by $9,407. That includes both state supported and private schools that do not depend on subsidies. 

    In other words, increased aid amounts combined with easier credit for student loans may prove to be too much temptation to public colleges and universities unaccustomed to restraining spending.

    Nearly all university systems face spending cuts and caps in the ability of students to pay tuition. Taxpayer awareness that student loan debt tops all other forms in the U.S. will lead to restraints here as well.

    Students, parents, taxpayers, the media, and elected officials need to start looking much more closely at the bloated bureaucracies and budgets of public colleges and universities. 





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