Pennsylvania’s students and their parents have some big changes coming if they are considering attendance at any of the 14 regional state universities.

Just short of two years ago the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) announced it would integrate six of the state’s fourteen regional state universities. It was unclear whether this would entail closing one or more of the colleges. On Monday, the PASSHE Board of Governors published its proposed plan for integration of the six colleges and also scheduled hearings to be held this week.

Integration of the six colleges will be done under a Northeast integration plan and a Western integration plan. Based on their location in the state, Bloomsburg University, Lock Haven University and Mansfield University would comprise the Northeast integration and the Western integration would consist of California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion University and Edinboro University.

As reported by Inside Higher Education, “Dozens of alumni of state public universities, as well as state residents, have expressed concern that PASSHE chancellor Daniel Greenstein is rushing into consolidation without first pushing the state Legislature to better fund the system.”

What does appear to be rushed is the scheduling of the Board of Governors’ public meeting to consider the proposal. The Board of Governors public meeting was held this morning at 8:30 and was streamed live via Zoom at http://www.passhe.edu/meeting. The agenda included time for public comment, and board members also considered whether to initiate a 60-day public comment period. The State Senate appropriations and education committees are planning to hold a public hearing on the plans Thursday.

Inside Higher Education also reported that “Save Our State Schools, a public advocacy group that has challenged the consolidation effort, will host an online event Wednesday to discuss a response to the new plans. The faculty union will also hold a press conference and virtual rally that afternoon.”

According to the plans, each consolidated university will have one president who will report to the Board of Governors through the chancellor. At the same time, each group of three colleges will be joined under a university to be named sometime this summer. The result will be a PASSHE system comprised of 10 accredited universities.

The consolidated universities would also have a shared enrollment management strategy and student support services, such as academic advising, financial aid, health and wellness counseling, library services, and career counseling. However, the plans recommend that each college retain its own name and branding and maintain current NCAA Division I and Division II sports at each individual institution.

The objective is to achieve economy and efficiency of services while providing greater educational opportunity to students. A primary goal is to reduce the total cost of degree attainment by 25 percent per student. This goal would be achieved by reducing the time to earn a degree through expanded program availability, high school dual enrollment, reduced operating expenses and additional fundraising success.

At this time, the best advice is to keep alert to news reports of legislative hearings and the opinions of groups with interest in the outcome of these plans. More information is also available at the PASSHE website.

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