Higher ed board tentatively endorses tuition freeze by 14 Pennsylvania-owned universities

The board that oversees Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities voted Thursday to endorse a tuition freeze sought by Gov. Tom Wolf but reserved the right to back out of the deal if he doesn't increase the university's budget by more than $45 million.

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The 9-8 vote followed a discussion that reflected dissension among members of the State System of Higher Education board of governors over whether it should simply agree to Wolf's proposal or preserve the board's right to make "the final determination," as it did.

"The battle for the $45.3 million starts now," said Rep. John Hanna, D-Clinton, the House minority whip and a board member.

"We don't want to raise tuition ever," but sometimes circumstances require it, said board member Jonathan Mack. "The governor says that he's committed to higher education. So are we."

Wolf has said the promised increase for the fiscal year that starts July 1 is the first of two installments that are designed to replace the roughly $90 million cut under former Gov. Tom Corbett. Together, the increases would boost state funding for the system by 11 percent, system officials said.

About 112,000 students are enrolled at the universities that make up the system: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.