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Drain vs. Gain: Attracting and Retaining More College Students in PA

December 12, 2013- Tom Joseph
HARRISBURG- With the theory that college students from other states can be a benefit to students who live in Pennsylvania, a state lawmaker wants to give colleges and universities here some flexibility setting out-of-state tuition rates.

Republican Rep. Greg Lucas says attracting more students to Pennsylvania campuses helps those schools in terms of increased enrollment and the need for more on-campus jobs. And he says it also can help retain both students and graduates.

"What's happening in Pennsylvania is, we're ending up with a brain drain," Lucas maintains. "Good students are leaving the Commonwealth because they can't find jobs or [are] going to other schools because it's cheaper for them or the same cost."

The last few years have been trying ones for higher education in Pennsylvania.

Gov. Tom Corbett, in his first year in office, proposed cutting state funding by 50 percent for the state's 18, four-year public institutions. The Legislature cut those reductions down to between 18 and 19 percent.

Lawmakers managed to negate lofty cuts proposed last year by a promise to keep tuition increases at or below the rate of inflation.

Lucas says while a Board of Governors currently sets tuition rates for all students at state-owned universities, his bill would let individual schools decide on those rates, as long as tuition for out-of-state students is at least as much as it is for students from Pennsylvania.

"So what we're trying to do is we're trying to get brain gain," he explains. "We're trying to bring those students into Pennsylvania from other states, other countries, and trying to keep them in Pennsylvania to create jobs and to work in Pennsylvania."

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