Penn State reports increase in applications

Posted: March 09, 2014

HERSHEY, Pa. The Jerry Sandusky child sex-abuse scandal at Pennsylvania State University has divided its board of trustees, but is not dissuading prospective students.

The 98,000-student university is on track for its largest application cycle ever, surpassing its previous high in 2011, the year the former assistant football coach was indicted. President Rodney Erickson delivered the news at Friday's board of trustees meeting, at the university's Hershey Medical Center.

After several years of substantial increases, applications were flat in 2012 and plunged by more than 8,000 in 2013.

"Last year, most universities were down a bit, because there was so much publicity about the difficulty of getting jobs and student debt," Erickson said after the meeting. "With the economic recovery, there's a renewed appreciation for the value of a college education.

"If the current trend continues, we will be at an all-time high for 2014."

Erickson anticipates the university will get about 125,000 applications this year for its main and branch campuses - up 2.5 percent from 2011.

Penn State received 109,031 applications in 2009; 115,044 in 2010; 121,950 in 2011; 121,932 in 2012; and 113,380 in 2013.

Also at the meeting, the board approved a $200 increase, or 4.27 percent, in room and board. Students will pay an average of $4,885 per semester for a standard double room and the most common meal plan. The university has not set its tuition and fees for next year. That usually happens in July, once state budget funding is set.

Compared with the same time last year, undergraduate applications are up by 9,000 - an increase of 19 percent at the main campus and 8 percent at the other campuses, Erickson told the board. Out-of-state applications are running 26 percent ahead of last year, while those from Pennsylvania are up 8 percent. International applications also showed significant growth - up 18 percent.

Erickson said that so far this year, the applicant pool has an average SAT score 20 points higher than last year's.

Graduate applications also showed 5 percent growth, while law school applications are up 13 percent and medical school applications 18 percent.

In other business, board member Al Clemens said he was stepping down. In parting comments, he called the board's decision - in which he took part - to fire football coach Joe Paterno in the aftermath of the Sandusky scandal a mistake.

"I will always regret that my name is attached to that rush to injustice," he said.

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