Harrisburg, Pa. (WHTM) — At a budget hearing in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, the leader of the State System of Higher Education (SSHE) made a very bold statement about the future of the state’s education system.
“Until we figure this out, I will be recommending to the board that we come back to the Senate next year with a legislative package to dissolve the system because if we continue to go down this path what you are going to see is that cross-subsidization is going to drain all of us,” said Dr. Dan Greenstein, Chancellor, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education.
On Friday evening, APSCUF President Dr. Jamie Martin released a statement on Dr. Greenstein’s comments at the hearing, calling them “reckless and irresponsible.”
“Words matter, and the chancellor’s words about dissolving the State System were reckless and irresponsible. Despite the chancellor’s later insistence that he was not making a threat, we are incredulous that he would bring up such a radical, explosive possibility — and I am certain that many of our members perceived it as a threat. The chancellor should be a leader and advocate for higher education in Pennsylvania, but his suggestion only creates fear, uncertainty and mistrust for students, their families, faculty, coaches, staff and Pennsylvania residents. His detrimental testimony crossed a line, and we are shocked, appalled and outraged.
“Today I met with the 14 APSCUF chapter presidents, and I will be calling an emergency meeting of APSCUF’s executive council early next week to discuss the situation. Action must be taken.”Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties statement from its president, Dr. Jamie Martin
While some are criticizing the chancellor’s statement, others say it’s a message that needs to be heard.
“He doesn’t try to sugarcoat the situation,” Senator Scott Martin (R-Lancaster) said.
Senator Martin is on the SSHE Board of Governors, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Chair of the Senate Education Committee.
“When you start to get close to a majority of your schools that are struggling you don’t have enough of the good ones without dragging them down too and starting to hurt their mission as well,” said Senator Martin.
Chancellor Greenstein told the Appropriations Committee that the system has relied on “cross-subsidization” of assets between the 14 universities to maintain financial stability for several years.
Senator Joe Pittman questioned whether Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) should remain in the SSHE.
“I am seeing IUP right now pay a terrible price in terms of retrenchment and clerical retirement and other layoffs,” Senator Pittman said. “I can’t help but believe that price is being paid for years of cross-subsidization to weaker universities. I am concerned that pain is not being shared equally. We have paid enough of a price and I am pretty fed up with it at this point. I just don’t see the value of the state system at this point, certainly from IUP’s vantage point.”
There is a plan to join some of the universities to help streamline costs.
“On the western side you have Edinboro, Clarion, and University of California of Pennsylvania, then you have more of that northern tier with Lock Haven, Mansfield and Bloomsburg. We are trying our best to get them all to work together,” said Senator Martin. “We have to get back to the main mission of the state system which is affordable quality education and that’s what we are looking to do.”
Chancellor Greenstein will present a plan to the SSHE Board of Governors in April. There will be time for public comment and the board will have a final vote on the plan in June.