College budget reflects mixed bag of trends

The Pennsylvania College of Technology board has approved a budget for 2019-20 of $157.3 million, a $7.1 million decrease in spending. That’s a good thing.

The budget includes a 2.51-percent tuition and fee rate increase, a 1.5 percent increase for residence life and 1.5 percent increase for dining service. Those are modest increases, but if the same thing happens each of the next 10 years, the school will be less and less affordable for students and their families.

And no one wants that to happen, given the concerning decline by 2 percent in enrollment.

The annual tuition and fees for in-state Penn College students, who make up 90 percent of a total enrollment of 5,319, will be $17,100 for 2019-20. For out-of-state students, the cost will total $24,510.

Given the uniquely diverse education programs the school offers, the tuition and fee cost is competitive with other schools.

And the decrease in spending is laudable.

But the enrollment drop, while part of a national trend, should be explored for underlying reasons because it can’t be sustained long-term.

In Penn College, our area has a treasure, a school that offers education and training programs that match employer needs now and in the future. A look at the school placement numbers for graduates is indicative of that.

But the school is not immune to national trends.

To continue attracting students of all economic classes so enrollment numbers can be maintained, a hard look needs to be taken at tuition costs to assure they remain competitive, affordable or even a bargain.

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