February 20, 2024

Legislative Budget Hearings: PASSHE Chancellor Greenstein to Discuss Funding Needed to Secure Another Tuition Freeze

Contact: Kevin Hensil, khensil@passhe.edu

Legislative Budget Hearings: PASSHE Chancellor Greenstein to Discuss Funding Needed to Secure Another Tuition Freeze

Harrisburg, Pa. – Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Chancellor Dan Greenstein will discuss the state-owned public university system’s funding request during House and Senate Appropriations Committee budget hearings on Feb. 21. 

PASSHE is requesting a state appropriation of $623.7 million — a $38 million, or 6.5%, increase over the current fiscal year. The requested funding reflects PASSHE’s goal of freezing tuition for another year while addressing inflation and other costs. Any additional state funding provided above the requested amount would help to further reduce students’ costs and increase student success. 

“Freezing tuition again is a priority for PASSHE and would benefit our students, many of whom are from low- and middle-income families,” said Chancellor Greenstein. “The State System has kept tuition flat for six years through a combination of greater investment from the commonwealth and cost reductions. Freezing tuition is proving to help students, spurring a 10% increase in new student enrollment over the last two years, increasing retention rates as students stay on course to graduate, and improving educational achievement and success for low-income and underrepresented minority students. The additional funding we are seeking would allow PASSHE to keep tuition frozen for a remarkable seventh year. That is a vital investment in PASSHE university students and their futures.” 

The budget hearings come amid much discussion about the broader higher education sector in Pennsylvania, prompted in large part by the governor’s proposal to create a new higher education system that would include the 10 PASSHE universities and the 15 community colleges, supported with additional funding. 

“We are very interested in engaging with the governor and all stakeholders regarding any proposal that could help our students, our institutions, and our state,” said Greenstein. “But even as we discuss proposed transformations for the future, we must not forget to take care of the present and increase PASSHE universities’ funding by 6.5% so we can freeze tuition again.” 

With more than 80,000 students across the State System, 10 PASSHE universities serve more Pennsylvanians – and are the most affordable – than any other four-year option in the commonwealth. 

Universities are informing prospective students about the extended commitment deadline and will work to provide financial aid offers as soon as FAFSA data is made available by the U.S. Department of Education. 

Annual Accountability Report 

As part of PASSHE’s unparalleled commitment to transparency, the State System annually releases an extensive accountability report prior to legislative appropriation committee hearings. The report is more than 100 pages in length and details the System’s contributions to the state, enrollment and graduation rates, student affordability and university sustainability. 

Contributions to the state 

State System universities are a major contributor to Pennsylvania’s workforce. 

  • Universities’ academic strengths match industries with worker shortages, including healthcare, STEM, education and business.
  • Nearly 90% of students are from Pennsylvania; alumni work in Pennsylvania after graduation and contribute to local economies.
  • The number of students earning degrees and credentials in high-demand careers is stable, despite lower overall enrollment since 2011.

Student access and enrollment 

Tuition freezes, increased university-funded aid, and investments in student recruitment and retention are supporting enrollment. 

  • New first-time student enrollment is up a combined 10% in Fall 2022 and Fall 2023.
  • Dual credit enrollment has nearly doubled since 2018.
  • However, Pennsylvania ranks 46th in state funding of four-year public institutions, and below all neighboring states; the proportion of costs students pay increased from 49% in 2001 to 65% in 2022 for Pennsylvania public institutions.

Student affordability 

PASSHE universities provide the best return on investment for the state by preparing students for in-demand careers at the lowest price. 

  • State funding increases in recent years have enabled PASSHE’s ongoing tuition freeze (at $7,716 per year) for six years.
  • PASSHE has kept the price students pay for tuition, fees, room, board, books and more nearly the same for five years, despite inflation pressures.
  • PASSHE universities’ affordability advantage is expanding compared to other public universities in Pennsylvania but lags neighboring states.

Student progression and completion 

State System students stay in college and graduate at higher rates than similar institutions nationally. 

  • The retention rate and the four-year graduation rate for first-time, full-time students outperform similar master’s degree-granting institutions.
  • Low-income students are returning for their second year at improving rates.
  • Emergency financial aid, wraparound student support services and other innovations at PASSHE universities help students stay on the path to graduation.

“The future of Pennsylvania’s workforce depends on more low- and middle-income students and families having the opportunity to get a comprehensive education with specific skills necessary for good jobs and long careers,” said Chancellor Greenstein. “That’s where PASSHE universities excel. Strong investment in these universities will keep tuition low and deliver real workforce results for the state.” 

Chancellor Greenstein will testify during a Senate Appropriations Committee Hearing at 9:30 a.m. Feb. 21 and the House Appropriations Committee at 1 p.m. that afternoon.