Already cited by the U.S. Department of Education as having the highest tuition for a four-year public university or college, the University of Pittsburgh is raising its rates for the 2014-15 academic year.
The Pitt Board of Trustees Friday approved a $1.97 billion operating budget for the fiscal year that started July 1 — up $10 million from the just completed year.
In the budget signed July 10, Pitt is to receive $136.3 million from the state — a third year of flat funding following a 21 percent cut four years ago.
“One of the things we’ve been able to do to address the reduction in state funding is fortunately our fundraising efforts have been very successful and our endowment income has been very strong this year,” said Ken Service, Pitt’s vice chancellor for communications.
The board approved a 3.9 percent average tuition increase for students at the main campus in Pittsburgh and a 2 percent hike at its branch campuses. For example, a student enrolled at the Oakland (main) campus in Arts and Sciences will pay and additional $316 per semester for an annual tuition of $16,872.
Penn State University has the second highest tuition ($16,572) for a four-year public university, and according to the Department of Education, the national average in 2013 was $7,407.
According to Service, the university has been trying to keep tuition hikes as low as possible.
“What we’re facing unfortunately to some extent with the state funding is the state seems to be shifting the cost, reducing state funding and putting more of the costs on the shoulders of students and their families,” he said.
While boosting tuition, the Pitt board also approved increasing the amount of financial aid by the same percentage.
“One of the areas we try to address is access," Service said, “and that’s one of the concerns that as tuition goes up, so the financial aid is directed basically to the students who have the greater need so that we can ensure access across all socio-economic levels.”
The additional $10 million in the operating budget represents a 0.5 percent increase. Service said the university has been trying to control costs through streamlining operations, shared services and an early retirement incentive two years ago, which resulted in 300 employees leaving. But no programs have been eliminated.
“One of the things we are concerned about is maintaining the quality of the programs, and as the state support declines, the risk is greater that that quality may be damaged, but that’s been a high priority to maintain that," Service said. "So for the coming year, there are no program reductions expected.”