Two state legislators crossed the aisle Tuesday to co-sponsor legislation to freeze tuition at some Pennsylvania universities.
State Reps. Kevin Boyle, a Democrat, and Nick Miccarelli, a Republican, introduced a bill that would freeze tuition at Pennsylvania System of Higher Education schools for five years and cap tuition increases at 2 percent after that.
Fourteen universities make up the network: Bloomsburg University, Shippensburg University, Millersville University, West Chester University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, East Stroudsburg University, Cheyney University, Slippery Rock University, Mansfield University, Kutztown University, Edinboro University, California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion University, and Lock Haven University.
Boyle, who represents Montgomery County and part of Philadelphia, said students shouldn’t be burdened with high tuition because of government underfunding or school administrators' overspending on development projects.
“It’s having devastating effects on people, young people particularly, in the state of Pennsylvania,” Boyle said. “Young people are delaying getting married, they’re delaying home ownership, and they’re just straddled with debt.”
In the last five years alone, annual tuition for schools in the system has increased by more than $1,200.
Carrie Ann Maguire, a recent graduate of Shippensburg University, said she saw her tuition skyrocket by $4,000 during her time there.
“As a Pennsylvania resident,” she said, “I am thankful that our state has universities like Shippensburg which entice students with their low tuition rates to pursue a higher education.
“Unfortunately, it is disheartening when these enticing rates increase yearly and we see students being forced to choose between staying in school and finding a full-time job in order to pay for their constantly accruing debt.”
The intent of the bill, said Miccarelli, is to maintain middle-class access to college.
“When it comes to our PASSHE schools,” said Miccarelli, who represents the 162nd District in Delaware County, “it is my opinion, and the opinion of many in the legislature, that accessibility should be our foremost goal.”
The proposed legislation will be introduced in the House of Representatives when it reconvenes in September.
Steven Olikara, co-founder and president of Millennial Action Project, praised the bipartisan collaboration.
“At a time when you see the levels of dissolution at an all-time high in our politics,” he said, “this is the antidote that we need.”