PASSHE releases plan for possible school consolidations

Pennsylvania

There are major concerns about the state system of higher education, possibly consolidating schools. The left-leaning Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center says it could have a disastrous economic impact. This comes a day after the Pennsylvania state system of higher education published the two consolidation plans, eight months after it announced its intention to do so.

One of the plans is the west integration plan, which would consolidate California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion and Edinboro Universities. The northeast integration plan, would consolidate Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities.

If the preliminary plans are approved on Wednesday, that kickstarts a 60-day public comment period. The earliest the board could approve the final plans is at its July meeting, which would mean an integrated university could begin accepting students in August 2022. The plan says there would be a comprehensive range of educational offerings.

“In the beginning, I was completely against the integration, and wasn’t aware of the opportunities it would give me as a student,” said Nicole Stickel, Bloomsburg University student.

According to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s report, the sheer number of proposed cuts amount to 14 percent of the system’s overall employment and could have a trickle-down effect on the local economies, where these 14 public universities are located, as well as the state as a whole.

“Sadly teachers have to be cut. I don’t think it’s as great as an opportunity as we see,” Stickel said.

“So the university reduces its own employment, that’s going to reduce the activity of the university as a purchaser and that will suck employment out of communities where the universities are located,” said Michael Ash, author of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center’s report.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties recently surveyed nearly one thousand employees. Only eight percent say they were supportive of the mergers.

The chancellor of the state system of higher education recently told lawmakers these schools are struggling big time. Declining enrollment and increasing costs have been a problem for years. The hope is that streamlining costs will give these schools, students and faculty hope.

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