Sacrificing millions in revenue, university officials keep tuition level

For some, the solution to curbing student costs is simple: cut expenses and work within the restraints of what the current tuition level allows.

But in an era marred by a rising price tag for higher education, Temple has been able to not raise its base tuition for the first time since 1995 through a series of events that all had to happen in order for tuition not to increase.

While the 2012-13 budget included $37 million in cuts to the operating budget – which have totaled more than $110 million during the past three years – Acting President Richard Englert said there were numerous factors contributing to this year’s tuition cost.

“We recognized that every year the costs go up in a university. The costs go up for health care and benefits. The costs go up for utilities. The costs go up for so many things within the university,” Englert said. “We also had to make reductions in our operating budget because when costs go up and revenue stays the same, you have to do something to reduce the costs.”

 Senior Vice President of the Office of Management and Budget Ken Kaiser added that the university was able to save through a hiring and travel freeze, a retirement incentive for faculty that 71 members signed up for and through eliminating vacant positions, notably in facilities management.

“We have to cut the budget, let’s take a look at the vacant positions. Which ones have been vacant for a year? Can we do without them?” Kaiser said. “Well, we’ve done without them for a year, maybe we can let them go and free up the budget money for that.”

After a slew of cuts to the operating budget, Executive Vice President, Chief Financial Officer and Treasurer Anthony Wagner said the major factor that allowed Temple to keep a base tuition of $13,006 and $22,832 for in-state and out-of-state students, respectively, was the state’s decision to keep the university’s state appropriation at $139.9 million which is on par with what it received last year.

“It was apparent that the governor was going to approve an appropriation that didn’t have a cut, that was flat-funded,” Wagner said. “That’s where we got to the point where we could do a zero [increase] on tuition.”

Though Temple was appropriated the same amount in funding from the state last year, a revenue shortfall in the state caused what amounted to a 7 percent cut to its state funding during the academic year. When asked if any contingencies had been planned for a similar situation this year, Wagner said that officials would be monitoring the state’s revenue situation closely and would plan accordingly if a revenue shortfall develops again.

While some reorganization within the university, such as the creation of the School of Media and Communication and the Center for the Arts, were made to streamline costs for the university, Kaiser said that the moves would “have made sense regardless.”

Although base tuition was able to be leveled for the upcoming academic year, some schools, such as the School of Media and Communication, saw an increase in tuition from last year

In this case, for example, Kaiser said that the increase was proposed 18 months ago, but put off until this year and eliminates most fees within the school.

Another notable increase is in the total budget itself. While the university saw a substantial decrease in its operating budget, non-discretionary spending has continued to rise, which caused the overall budget to increase from about $1.123 billion a year ago, to $1.154 billion this year. Kaiser said that these costs include insurance, health care and utilities.

“These are things that go up and we’ve got to fund them, we like to say, just to keep the lights on, just to keep the operation moving at the level it currently is,” Kaiser said

Kaiser added that by keeping tuition at its current level, Temple is losing $12 million in revenue which it would have gained had the university gone through with a 3 percent increase in tuition.

Sean Carlin can be reached at sean.carlin@temple.edu or on Twitter @SeanCarlin84.

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