Last Thursday, the Board of Governors (BoG) of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) passed a $112-a-semester tuition increase for the 2018-19 academic year — the second smallest increase in more than a decade, according to a PASSHE press release.
BoG Chairwoman Cynthia Shapira said cost-cutting by universities and increased investment from both the state and students is necessary to keep the quality and accessibility of the state system.
“The increased investment from the Commonwealth—for which we are greatly appreciative to both the governor and the legislature—combined with the extraordinary efforts of the universities to control their costs will help us to continue to provide great value across the State System as we prepare students for success in their careers and their lives,” Shapira said in the press release.
This small increase is due to four years of increased state funding for PASSHE and expected healthcare and energy cost savings. The increase will help partially offset the projected $49.2 million budget deficit this year. PASSHE universities have already reduced spending by $360 million over the past decade. However, a $20 million reduction by universities is still necessary to fill the budget gap.
PASSHE will receive $468 million from the commonwealth this year — a $15 million increase from last year. Mandated pension costs have increased by $65 million, but the pension rates are determined by the commonwealth and PASSHE has no control over the costs.
Health care costs are expected to decrease by $7.7 million, as opposed to previous years when it has risen. This comes as a result of negotiations with various labor unions, a new health care administration contract and shifts in plan participation.
It is also expected that energy expenses will decrease by $2.4 million this year due to energy-conservation projects taken on by universities. In 13 years, PASSHE universities have saved $250 million in energy costs.
By sharing services including payroll, labor relations, human resources, construction support, legal services and library resources, the universities have saved millions, according to the press release.
“Because we are a single system, we are able to generate significant savings through sharing and combining services,” said PASSHE Interim Chancellor Karen M. Whitney. “We will continue to look for additional ways to maximize these kinds of cost-saving opportunities as part of our System redesign