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June 25, 1998

Pitt Board of Trustees expected to approve FY99 budget today

Tuition would go up by 4 percent next fall (the lowest percentage tuition hike at Pitt in nearly a decade) and the pool of money for salaries would increase by 3 percent July 1, under a Pitt fiscal year 1998-99 budget that the Board of Trustees is expected to approve today, June 25.

The board meeting begins at 9 a.m. in the William Pitt Union's Assembly Room.

Full-time tuition for Pennsylvania full-time undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) would increase to $5,884, while nonresident CAS students would pay $12,918.

Tuition increases would be 4 percent for in-state and out-of-state students at all Pitt schools and regional campuses except the engineering school, where tuition would remain frozen for the third consecutive (and final) year to bring Pitt's rates into line with tuition at competing engineering schools.

Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said: "Our commitment to cost effectiveness and efficiency, and to bringing about broader scale changes in our funding sources, coupled with the increased levels of Commonwealth support, have enabled us to keep our tuition increase to a minimum while still allowing us to invest rather heavily in student life enhancements and academic program initiatives." The Board of Trustees' budget committee unanimously endorsed the $865.1 million Pitt FY 1998-99 operating budget — together with a $55.3 million capital budget — at a 10-minute public meeting on June 18.

The budgets now require the full board's approval, which seems assured.

"These budgets reflect institutional priorities that the board and the University's senior administration already have agreed on," said budget committee chairperson Frank V. Cahouet.

"You never want to say never, but I can't see anything [in the budgets] that the full board would object to or seriously question." The capital budget is consistent with Pitt's facilities plan of construction and renovation projects for 1998-2007. It also emphasizes institutional goals set by the trustees two years ago, including enhancing student life and maintaining excellence in research. Projects include:

* $6 million to preserve Pittsburgh campus buildings and comply with the federal Americans With Disabilities Act.

* $5.3 million to construct garden-style student apartments on the Pittsburgh campus, $3 million to build similar housing at the Greensburg campus, and $2.5 million to renovate Bradford campus student apartments.

* $3 million to renovate the Medical Research Facility's 7th floor (the last unoccupied space in that building) to accommodate Pitt's Arthritis Research Center.

* $2.3 million for design and miscellaneous work on the planned $60 million Convocation/Events Center.

* $1.4 million toward a continuing project to renovate classrooms.

* $854,667 to complete wiring of the Pittsburgh campus's 5,000 dormitory rooms for access to the Internet. This project's total cost is expected to be $1.5 million, nearly a half-million dollars under budget, and it is expected to be finished a year ahead of schedule.

* $150,000 for a new fitness center in the Towers dorms, the third student/employee fitness center to be built on the Pittsburgh campus in as many years.

The proposed tuition hike for next fall would be the smallest percentage increase here since 1989. School-by-school tuition hikes for Pitt in-state undergraduates ranged from 3.8-4 percent that year. Tuition for out-of-state undergrads and graduate and professional students increased that year by 5.7-6.7 percent except at the medical school, where tuition was frozen.

Student fees for full-time undergraduates at the Pittsburgh campus totaled $220 in fall 1989, compared with next fall's proposed total of $540.

Pitt administrators say the fee hikes have helped to fund dramatic improvements in recent years in campus lighting, bus service, recreation facilities and student access to computer equipment and networks.

Among next fall's proposed fee increases is a hike in the student transportation and security fee to $55 per term for all Pittsburgh campus students, up from $37 for full-time students and $16 for part-timers. The increase will enable Pitt students to ride free on all Port Authority Transit bus and train routes, under a one-year trial project that's expected to be approved today by the University's board and next month by PAT's board of directors. If Pitt and PAT deem the project a success, they could extend it beyond the one-year trial period.

Staff and faculty likewise would get free, unlimited access to PAT by flashing their ID cards, but Pitt administration (not students or employees) would subsidize staff and faculty ridership.

Salary raises for faculty and staff will show up in end-of-September paychecks, retroactive to July 1.

Physics professor Richard Pratt, who chairs the University Senate budget policies committee, said the proposed 3 percent increase in salary money "seems about the most that it was reasonable to expect, given the various budgetary constraints the University is operating under, including the fairly modest [3.3 percent, or $5 million] increase in next year's state appropriation and the stated goal of holding down tuition."

During the 75-minute closed-door meeting of the trustees' budget committee, which preceded the 10-minute public session, trustees and Pitt administrators briefly discussed the need to make employee salaries more competitive, according to Pratt, who attends the meetings as a non-voting faculty representative.

"There seemed to be some sense of appreciation that more needs to be done about salaries in the future," Pratt said. "Reference was made to the slippage in faculty salaries last year relative to our competitors" in the American Association of Universities (AAU).

Average salaries of full, associate and assistant professors, as well as faculty librarians, lost ground here last year compared with salaries at Pitt's fellow AAU members. See May 28 University Times.

— Bruce Steele

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