This letter was written by Rik Bhattacharyya, a third-year student studying chemical engineering. He serves as the College of Engineering representative in the University Park Undergraduate Association and as the engineering student senator in the University Faculty Senate.

On July 21, Penn State’s Board of Trustees met and approved an increase to tuition. While multiple news headlines lauded no increases for in-state commonwealth campus undergraduates and only a 2% increase for in-state University Park undergraduates, the truth is far less bright.

In reality, every University Park student in the College of Engineering and Smeal College of Business, colleges that make up more than 17% of Penn State’s total enrollment, will be confronted with large tuition hikes. Over the next two years, in-state engineering and business upperclassmen will pay $2,832 more on tuition, a 12.3% increase, putting them at par only with nursing students.

Engineering and business students simply do not require the same resources nursing students need like clinicals or labs. There is no good justification for this increase. To make things worse, the fate of out-of-state students is far worse. And unlike last year’s tuition increase, the university has yet to announce an access grant program to help students with limited financial resources pay for the increases.

Penn State is also implementing a tuition surcharge for students taking more than 19 credits. This surcharge will make it virtually impossible for students with high course loads — like engineering — to take additional classes or double major. Engineering upperclassmen taking a full course load and planning on double majoring in areas like language, economics or music will be paying an additional $1,013 per credit for classes putting them above 19 credits. Additionally, students taking classes not related to their major, like those required for resident assistants or tour guides, will fall behind on their academic progress.

It’s understandable Penn State needs to take steps to cut costs. Even with the current budget, the university is still sitting at a $63 million deficit. However, the answer is not to shortchange students in order to increase tuition revenues. I have talked to many students with plans like double majoring or graduating early, and it’s simply not fair to them to change the financial realities of their plan halfway through their college career.

For students affected by these changes, I would encourage them to reach out to their college. The university has many financial and academic resources for students; they just need to take the time to reach out and take advantage of them. Additionally, students who have AP or IB credits not being used for their graduation requirements are able to use Penn State’s “Test Credit Removal Form” to remove them from their record. This will delay hitting upperclassmen status so students can temporarily avoid being charged a higher tuition.

Every single Penn Stater I have ever met is incredibly proud of their university, and it’s of the utmost importance it stays that way. But in order for the university to stay strong, it needs to make sure that it prioritizes financial accessibility to make sure every Pennsylvanian has affordable access to education right here in Happy Valley.

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