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Pa. State-Run Colleges Could Set Own Tuition Soon

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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The rising cost of college tuition is an ever-increasing challenge for students trying to get an education. And as state funding continues to drop, rising inflation also impacts schools.

So all of Pennsylvania's 14 state-run universities have come together to form a task-force with the goal of making college more affordable and accessible.

On Thursday, Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education's Board of Governors voted to adopt a new tuition policy that allows these universities to develop their own tuition plans.

For schools, this could also mean an increase in enrollment, and for students, potentially less out-of-pocket expenses.

Historically, there has been one tuition rate for all of Pennsylvania's state-run schools. But with this new policy, tuition at regional state-run schools -- including Slippery Rock University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, California University of Pennsylvania, and Clarion University -- may no longer be one size fits all.

"They will look at their family income, at their student makeup, at the kinds of programs they offer," said Kenn Marshall, spokesperson for the PA State System of Higher Education.

Pennsylvania's System of Higher Education is giving state-run schools the opportunity to individualize their pricing plan for traditional, online and graduate courses. State-run universities are generally, after community colleges, considered a low-cost alternative to higher education.

But mock student profiles provided by the State System of Higher Education make clear the costs of such schools are often still unattainable.

For example, Jack's family has an annual income of $36,000. But after aid, tuition costs are 12 percent of their income. Another mock student profile shows Maria's family earns $62,000, but after aid, her education costs equate to 18 percent of their income.

Under the new plan, schools would have more flexibility in distributing aid to students.

"Students with the greatest need, they may be able to make more financial aid available for those students," Marshall said.

Schools like IUP say they're already doing some of this. "IUP offers a discount to local students who attend our Punxsutawney and Northpointe campuses in order to provide a more affordable entrance into the university," an IUP spokesperson said in a statement.

Schools have the next several months to submit their plans. Then the State System of Higher Education's board of governors would need to approve each school's individual adopt-your-own-tuition plan to be ready for students in the fall of 2020.

If approved, state aid packages would be available in April rather than over the summer, giving students more time to plan out their expenses.

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