By David DeKok
HARRISBURG Pa. (Reuters) - A study by the U.S. Department of Education shows that the main campuses of the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State University are the most costly four-year public colleges in the country.
The study, which used tuition figures for in-state residents for the 2012-2013 academic year and was released on Monday, showed Pitt’s tuition and fees, excluding room and board, at $16,590, and Penn State's at $16,444. The University of New Hampshire is a close third with the cost to state residents at $16,422.
The national average for in-state tuition at public colleges is $7,407. Out-of-state tuition is even higher.
Among the least expensive public colleges are Palm Beach State College in Florida at $2,378 and, at the bottom of the list, Haskell Indian Nations University in Kansas at $80.
“There is almost a direct correlation between decreases in state aid and increases in tuition,” Ken Service, vice chancellor for communications at the University of Pittsburgh, said on Tuesday.
“Three years ago, we had a drastic, 19 percent reduction in state aid,” he said.
Service said Pennsylvania ranks 47th out of 50 states in the amount of support the legislature sets aside for higher education.
In a related development on Tuesday, the Pennsylvania legislature gave final approval to the annual budget appropriations for Pitt and Penn State, leaving them unchanged from the 2013-2014 academic year despite rising costs.
Penn State branch campuses comprised 15 of the 34 schools on the most-costly list released by the federal education agency. A spokeswoman for Penn State, Lisa Powers, could not be reached for comment.
Pennsylvania has 94 private colleges, second only to New York, and critics have accused private colleges of lobbying the legislature to hold down assistance for the public schools.
Don Francis, president of the Association of Private Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania, said that isn’t true, but he admitted that if Penn State’s tuition dropped even to the level of Ohio State University's at $10,202, his member colleges might be hurt.
“There is competition,” he said.
(Reporting by David DeKok; Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Eric Beech)