SUSQUEHANNA VALLEY CENTER POLICY BRIEF
AFFORDABLE EDUCATION REMAINS PASSHE’S TOP PRIORITY
By John C. Cavanaugh and Steve Hicks
Check out this link – http://www.thevoiceofpa.net/BrowseMedia/Television/BehindTheHeadlines.aspx – for an interview on Behind the Headlines with Dr. Cavanaugh and Dr. Hicks on this issue.
PASSHE and its 14 universities have done much to keep costs as low as possible for students and their families, especially over the last five years.
PASSHE takes very seriously its commitment to providing students the "highest quality education at the lowest possible cost"–words taken directly from the legislation that created the State System 25 years ago, and a combination that makes our universities one of the best values going. Toward that end, tuition increases in each of the last four years have been held below the inflation rate–averaging 2.9 percent–a record no other public university system in the nation can match. PASSHE’s tuition and required fee increases over the last five years have been the lowest among all public college and university systems in the U.S., according to a study conducted by the Washington Higher Education Coordinating Board.
A separate report released in the fall of 2008 by the College Board notes the average total cost of attendance — including tuition, required fees, room and board — at a PASSHE university ($13,794) is below the national average ($14,333) and significantly below the amount charged by other public colleges and universities in the Middle Atlantic ($16,253) or New England ($17,045) regions.
PASSHE has kept tuition and fee increases to a minimum despite the fact state support for the universities has declined in terms of the percentage of its overall operating budget from about two-thirds in 1983 to about one-third today. The average annual increase in PASSHE’s state appropriation rarely matches the inflation rate. This factor has contributed significantly to the amount of increased student borrowing. PASSHE universities have done an extraordinary job keeping tuition increases low in this economic climate through various cost-containment efforts, including joint purchasing of goods and services, implementing a variety of energy conservation initiatives and aggressively managing its health care costs. Some of those savings have been re-allocated to high-priority programs in areas such as science, technology and health care to better serve our students’ needs and those of the commonwealth.
Quality can never be ignored, and it isn’t at PASSHE. More of our academic programs are accredited by professional organizations nationally than ever before, a credit to the efforts of the universities, especially the faculty.
Our student retention and graduation rates both are increasing, further indications of PASSHE’s commitment to ensuring students receive the highest quality education. Providing a quality, affordable education remains PASSHE’s top priority. The proof is in the numbers.
JOHN C. CAVANAUGH is chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. STEVE HICKS is president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.