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Theobald: Next year’s tuition dependent on finalized Wolf budget

Tom Wolf said he anticipated a tuition freeze from universities, for which he expected to increase state funding.

An increase in Temple’s state appropriation that would come from passing Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget as-is would result in a tuition increase held to the rate of inflation or lower, President Theobald said in a State Senate budget hearing Tuesday.

Theobald, along with presidents from Pennsylvania’s other three state-related universities, gathered in Harrisburg for two hearings with the state’s General Assembly in light of new governor Tom Wolf’s proposed budget.

In his budget address given earlier this month, Wolf said he would roll back half of the previous cuts made to state appropriations for higher education, but he would expect a tuition freeze.

“If the amount of funding that is mentioned in the governor’s proposal were to be forthcoming, I would see no issue in tuition being cost-of-living or less,” Theobald said when asked about that possibility during the hearing.

Theobald was flanked by Valerie Harrison, Lincoln University’s acting president, Eric Barron, president of Pennsylvania State University and Patrick Gallagher, the recently-appointed chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh.

Much of each hearing, held separately with the House of Representatives and the Senate, focused on issues relating to Penn State, with questions directed at Barron.

But when Theobald spoke, it was often about “Fly in 4,” the program implemented this year which offers scholarships to students in exchange for curbing their work schedule and mandates regular meetings with an adviser to stay on track for a four-year graduation. He also discussed the “Temple Option,” which allows applying students to complete four short essays in lieu of submitting test scores.

Since the other three university administrators all took office last year, Theobald, who was inaugurated in October 2013 and took office Jan. 1 of that year, was the longest-tenured school official at the hearings.

With regard to tuition, Barron said Penn State would not see an increase if the full requested increase comes through. Lincoln has already frozen next year’s tuition for returning current freshmen, but incoming freshmen next year will face a higher bill, Harrison said. Gallagher said Pitt will “keep tuition increases as low as possible,” with intent to be below the rate of inflation, but did not promise a tuition freeze.

An updated version of this story will appear in print and online next Tuesday, March 31.
Joe Brandt can be reached at jbrandt@temple.edu or on Twitter @JBrandt_TU.

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