PASSHE claims benefits to university integration

Pennsylvania

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is looking to ‘integrate’ by combining six of its universities to lower costs while hoping it improves the product. 

Although it is higher education — the math is quite basic.

“We’ve been spending down on our reserves at the universities at a rate that is not sustainable, which was a driving force behind these integrations,” says Dave Pidgeon, PR director at PASSHE.

So the state system is moving forward with its plan to consolidate three schools in the north: Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield and three in the west: California, Clarion, and Edinboro.

There are potential cost savings and possible advantages.

“You can be a student at Lock Haven and now have access to an accredited business school at Bloomsburg,” Pidgeon said.

Like most classrooms, there are plenty of unanswered questions.

“How will academic programming be for example? Integrate together? What will the administration and governance look like? Student services? Athletics? All of these important questions,” Pidgeon noted.

There are financial and enrollment challenges. In 2010, the system had more than 112,000 students. Last year: 87,000 — a 22% drop. Tuition in 10 was 15,500. Last year: 22,000 — a 40-some percent hike, and almost the cost of private schools.

“We have got to recapture the affordability edge in the higher-ed marketplace. It is competitive,” Pidgeon said.

The state system will also make a big ask of the legislature for a funding increase. “If you got fewer students, why are you asking for more money?” lawmakers might quip.

“Investing in us and investing in our students is going to help Pennsylvania move out of the current pandemic and succeed economically moving forward,” Pidgeon said.

The integration plan will be approved in April and could be implemented for students by August of 2022.

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