Penn State’s University Park campus is the priciest four-year public university in the country, according to a U.S. Education Department website that outlines the varying costs of universities throughout the country.
The U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center College Scorecards interactive website — designed to help prospective college students find their ideal university — lists the University Park campus as having the highest in-state tuition at $15,250 per academic year based on the 2010-11 rates that were surveyed.
When taking into consideration the cost of room and board, the price of textbooks and the average grants awarded by the university, Penn State ranked as the fourth-most expensive university among public four-year schools, totaling $19,816 per academic year, according the website.
The website ranks multiple Penn State campuses across the Commonwealth as being among the top 30 public four-year schools with the most costly tuition.
University spokeswoman Lisa Powers said the university’s tuition increases stem from a variety of factors.
The increases have reflected both inflationary growth of expenses, as well as the shift of greater financial responsibility from the Commonwealth to students and their families, Powers said.
Powers said the continued cuts in state support for higher education have had consequences, and Penn State’s appropriation is substantially less today than it was in 2000.
The amount of appropriation proposed for this year is the same level of funding that the university received in 1996, when the university was educating about 15,000 fewer students.
“We educate more students today than ever before, our costs are more, our appropriation is less and our per-student funding is less,” Powers said. “We recognize the difficult financial times that families and the state also find themselves in today, and last year we had the lowest tuition increase in 45 years.”
Other public four-year universities that ranked highly included the University of Pittsburgh’s Pittsburgh Campus, which came in second at $14,936 per academic year, and University of Vermont that placed third at $14,066 per academic year.
Although many Pennsylvania schools were ranked as the priciest among four-year public schools across the country, no universities located within the state ranked within the 65 least expensive.
According to the Penn State tuition website, the in-state tuition rate for the 2012-13 academic year for undergraduate students attending the University Park campus is $15,562. The cost of tuition for the 2012-13 year increased by $438 from the 2011-12 tuition rate of $15,124.
On July 13, 2012, the Penn State Board of Trustees approved an increase of 2.9 percent for in-state students at University Park, the lowest proposed in 45 years.
Senior Vice President for Finance and Business David Gray said a key consideration in the budgetary equation is educational quality.
“Penn State is committed to offering its students a world-class research university education,” Gray said. “That means hiring and retaining top notch faculty and providing classrooms, laboratories, libraries, IT and other learning resources that are competitive with our peers.”
Gray said the university, trustees and administration are committed to keeping the cost of attending Penn State as affordable as possible and are working to do so in many ways.
The Budget Planning Task Force, commissioned by University President Rodney Erickson last year, is considering various mechanisms to curtail costs and increase revenues, Gray said.
“Through this review, we expect recommendations that may result in greater administrative efficiencies in operating our Commonwealth Campuses,” Gray said. “We are considering the realities of a still sluggish economy and declining demographics, particularly in Western Pennsylvania.”
Graduate Student Association President Wanika Fisher (graduate-law) said the increasing tuition rates to which the university has been exposed is a result of the cost of living, the rising costs to be a competitive university and the unique dynamics that Penn State offers to students.
Ultimately, Gray said achieving the objective of providing a top-notch education at an affordable price is a very difficult balancing act.
“It is one that I think Penn State has pulled off reasonably well over the years in the face of some exceptional challenges,” Gray said. “Providing a great education at a reasonable price will remain a central goal for Penn State in the coming years.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.