Budget Cuts Do Not Equal Tuition Hikes

Last year we highlighted waste in public higher education, such as Indiana University of Pennsylvania’s golf simulator with 52 different golf courses and Penn State’s decision to construct new buildings so they can offer fewer early morning classes. Yet here we are again witnessing an avalanche of criticism over Gov. Corbett’s cuts to higher education. The 20 to 30 percent cuts are significant, but reasonable, considering universities’ inability to control costs.

Consider the example of Penn State. Special interests screamed bloody murder about the cut to Penn State’s taxpayer subsidy last year, proclaiming tuition would skyrocket, but the actual increase ended up being the smallest in years.

Contrary to popular belief, tuition at public universities has ballooned despite taxpayer support. Taxpayers provided nearly $3.5 billion to Penn State over the last decade while tuition doubled to $15,250.

PSU tuition

It’s understandable to think state subsidies would keep tuition at bay, but it doesn’t. Universities hike tuition when state subsidies are scarce and when state appropriations increase. The real driver of tuition hikes is soaring administration costs, not declining state subsidies.

Gov. Corbett recognizes shoving more money at public universities won’t stop incessant tuition hikes. His call for a candid conversation on state government’s role in higher education is sorely needed.