It was advocacy day for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) on the hill today. Students, legislators and officials from the 14 PASSHE universities gathered in the lower rotunda to display their music technology, their robots, drones and what their schools have to offer to the next generation of college students. PASSHE released an economic report showing the economic benefits the system brings to Commonwealth. According to report’s conservative estimates, PASSHE generates $6.7 billion annually, employs 12,000 people and supports an additional 62,000 jobs. On top of that, the system produces $11 for every $1 that Pennsylvania sends their way.
Last week, the Wolf Administration sent Policy Director, and arm twister extraordinaire, John Hanger to the latest PASSHE Board of Governor’s meeting with a proposal; promise students that there’ll be no tuition increases for state funding. This gave the Republican Party another opportunity to shoot off press releases about the looming Tom Wolf Dictatorship, but one issue that wasn’t made clear was the future of the controversial pay-for-credit tuition model that some state schools are looking to adapt.
This issue has been a hot topic for some in the state system over the last few months. According to Kevin Mahoney, this pay-per-credit model will cost students an extra 15-20 percent in tuition. Those taking 6 three credit courses, or an 18 credit hour courseload, will be looking at a 20 percent increase. Before the Governor’s proposal was made to the Board of Governor’s, students from Bloomsburg University gathered over 1,200 petition signatures protesting the possible tuition hike.
At today’s PASSHE Advocacy Day, I had the opportunity to interview David Soltz, president at Bloomsburg University, and ask him a few questions on this pay-for-credit model. Soltz explained that this pay-for-credit model is designed to raise lost revenues from the 2011 budget cuts and the lack of funding that happened in the three years after the initial cuts. According to Soltz, this model is designed to help out the non-traditional students who normally would not be taking a 12-18 credit load due to work or affordability. Stolz said that those working students and lower income students are paying more per credit than those taking a full workload, but this model would put everyone on the same playing field. The Bloomsburg model would “put 3 million dollars back into financial aid that goes to the needier students who have a gap in the aid versus the costs,” and “allows [the school] to have more course offerings, more services for students, and smaller class sizes.”
When asked about students circulating petitions and raising concerns over this tuition model, Soltz defended pay-for-credit because of the additional resources it will bring into the university. This will then prevent students from having to stay in school an extra semester or two. In the long run, that would save students money.
However, Stolz did hint that the pay-for-credit model was not finalized, and it could be nixed if the General Assembly comes through with Governor Wolf’s proposed $45 million budget increase to PASSHE. Stolz stated “if there is this funding, we will most likely freeze tuition and may not go to that model. Is still up in the air depending on the funding,” and when pressed on that statement in a follow-up question, he stated “if we get the state funding that the Governor proposed most likely we will not go to that model at this point in time. Although there hasn’t been a final decision on that.”
The Governor’s office has been reached for comment, but we are still waiting for a response.