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Plan would impose five-year tuition freeze at state universities

Lawmakers plan to introduce legislation next month

Two state lawmakers have teamed up on a bipartisan plan that would freeze tuition for five years at the 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

State Reps. Nick Miccarelli (R-Delaware County) and Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia) plan to introduce the legislation when the House reconvenes in September, it was announced this week.

Following the five-year freeze, PASSHE institutions would be limited to a maximum annual tuition increase of 2 percent, under the lawmakers’ proposal.

“Today we must ensure that middle-class families in Pennsylvania are not priced out of the choice to attend public higher educational institutions where they can learn the skills needed to succeed in today’s competitive job market,” Miccarelli said in a news release.

For 2016-17, tuition at the state system schools rose 2.5 percent, or $89 per semester, the smallest percentage tuition increase in more than a decade, state system officials said. They attributed the smaller increase to cost-saving steps and a second straight year of increased state investment.

The increase set the base tuition rate for most full-time Pennsylvania residents — who comprise about 90 percent of all State System students — at $3,619 per semester, or $7,238 for the full year.

Meanwhile, a state House member from northwestern Pennsylvania said he plans to introduce four bills to “reduce the need for tuition increases” at the state-owned universities.

Rep. Brad Roae’s measure would: allow only one pay raise per year for professors, rather than the current two a year; require full-time professors to teach 15 hours a week, compared to 12 hours a week currently; allow for free tuition for children of professors up to and

including age 21, covering until the end of the semester after their

21st birthday (the current contract allows free tuition up to age 24); and allow only up to 3.5 percent of state professors “to be on full

pay and full benefit sabbatical leave at any given time,” the Meadville-area Republican said Friday.

The state system universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities. The state system has more than 100,000 degree-seeking students, with thousands more enrolled in certificate and other career-development programs.

David O'Connor
Dave O'Connor covers York County, manufacturing, higher education, nonprofits, and workforce development. Have a tip or question for him? Email him at [email protected].

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