Penn State undergraduates whose families make $75,000 a year or less are slated to see their tuition stay the same in the upcoming year, while others will see their tuition increase 2% to 6%, under a plan the board of trustee’s finance committee approved Thursday morning.
An estimated 20,000 students will qualify for the flat tuition through what the university is calling an “access grant.” It’s open to both Pennsylvania residents and out-of-state students, but does require students to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA.
The full board will vote on the tuition schedule Friday during its meeting at Penn State York.
“For all families whose household incomes are $75,000 or less, which is above the median, there is no tuition increase this year,” said Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi during the board’s Finance, Business and Capital Planning committee meeting.
The median household income in Pennsylvania is $63,627, according to the U.S. Census.
Trustee Valerie Detwiler said there are a lot of Pennsylvanians who don’t meet the $75,000 income limit, but still need help.
“So, how are we going to help those kids in the middle, which is a constant issue. And I feel like our proposal is kind of leaving them out, yet again,” she said. “How are we going to help the kids in the middle that don’t meet our income thresholds for need, but don’t have resources available to help them. They get lost. So, what is our strategy for those kids?”
Bendapudi said the said the plan isn’t perfect, but it covers more than half the population in Pennsylvania.
“We’re trying to catch the teacher, the nurse, that’s trying to put their child through school as well,” she said.
The tuition offset being voted on by trustees Friday is only for the upcoming academic year. A spokesman said the university “can’t speculate” on future tuition rates because of all the factors that go into it.
Bendapudi pointed to factors the university is facing when it comes to the budget, including the impact of COVID, unfavorable enrollment trends, across-the-board internal spending cuts in recent years, and flat funding from the state. The university raised tuition this past year, after freezing it for three years.
“So given all of these realities, we wanted to make sure we continue to remain competitive and provide the best opportunities for our students,” Bendapudi said.
The university is setting aside $14 million to pay for the “access grants.”
Students whose families make more than $75,000 will see a tuition increase. For in-state undergraduates, it’s 5% at University Park and 2% at the Commonwealth Campuses. Out-of-state undergraduates at University Park and all graduate students will see their tuition go up 6%.
The full board of trustees will vote on the proposed tuition changes Friday at its meeting at Penn State York.