State system readies vote to consolidate 6 schools into 2
HARRISBURG, Pa. (AP) — The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education estimates it can save millions of dollars by merging six of its 14 universities into two new institutions, according to more than 400 pages of planning documents released Monday, two days before a vote on the plan, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
A vote from the board of governors on whether to proceed with the plan is expected Wednesday and starts a 60-day public comment period. A final vote would be scheduled for July, with implementation in 2022.
The system has worked on the plans since October under Chancellor Dan Greenstein, who has warned that some of the system’s schools are not sustainable without radical change in the face of sinking enrollment, rising student debt and a lagging commitment of public tax dollars.
Under the plans, Bloomsburg, Mansfield and Lock Haven universities in northern Pennsylvania would merge into one institution and California, Clarion and Edinboro in western Pennsylvania would merge to become another. All six campuses would remain open, with integrated faculty, curriculum and enrollment strategies.
The plan would save $18.4 million after five years through reductions in leadership, management and support staff.
“It is the beginning of the journey, and one, through the experience of building the work included here, that we have every confidence will be successful,” Greenstein wrote.
The statewide faculty union said in a statement Monday that it is “reading the plans carefully — through a lens that keeps student concerns at the forefront” and making sure the plans comply with state law. It plans a virtual rally on Wednesday afternoon.
The plan envisions reducing the cost of a degree for students by 25% through “expanded program availability, high school dual enrollments, lower student fees, additional fund-raising achievements” and other measures.
Enrollment has fallen more than 20% since 2010 to below 100,000, driven by steep declines of students from families whose annual incomes are below $110,000, according to the system.
The system board voted to freeze tuition for the third year in a row next year, even though it receives less state aid than it did in the 2006-07 school year.
Each of the six campuses would keep their name in some form, while the two new institutions would each take on another name.
The system wants each of the six campuses to retain its sports teams. A request is awaiting approval from the National Collegiate Athletic Association.