HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) — Enrollment is down and money is tight at most state universities, so the governing board of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) unanimously voted to consolidate six of its 14 schools into two universities. The most recent measure is a multi-year system redesign effort to help with student success and institutional sustainability.
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The California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion University and Edinboro University will form a single university with three partner campuses in western Pa. While Bloomsburg University, Lock Haven University and Mansfield University will also combine in northeastern Pa.
The savings will mostly be administrative.
“One president instead of three. So have probably a multitude of less vice presidents and support staff that go to those offices,” Senator Scott Martin (R), who voted yes to the consolidation, said.
The six institutions will each maintain their historical names and identities, plus the residential educational experience. The measure’s goal is to expand academic program opportunities, enhance supports and resources to help students and reach communities that are currently underserved.
Chancellor Dan Greenstein made a promise to all students with the vote.
“You will complete your degree and your major without disruption you have my word,” Greenstein said.
Faculty and staff, however, are mostly opposed to consolidation and wanted the plan delayed. They fear cuts are coming.
“If at the same time we’re cutting the workforce that’s gonna be critical to the implementation of this plan, that doesn’t make any sense to me either,” a faculty member said.
According to the press release, efforts to complete the two integrations will take years. With developing the curriculum that the new academic program array, the process will also involve fleshing out organizational charts and finalizing work with the NCAA to ensure athletics will remain on each campus.
“As we have said from the beginning, building an integrated university will take time,” Greenstein said. “You cannot flip a switch and expect it to be done.”
The consolidation means that the three partner campuses will be a single administration, budget, unified faculty and student information system to help put them on a more solid financial footing and expanding the number of programs offered.
While some remain negative about the consolidation, the University of California’s (Cal U)president and those of the other merging schools say economics 101 requires that something is done.
“Combining the resources and workforce talent of three universities is a bold move, but one that is focused from the start on student success and financial viability of all campuses involved,” Bob Throne, Cal U president, said.
Supporters of the measure say the struggling schools unfairly siphon state money from the successful campuses.
if we didn’t make the changes what we were doing was taking Millersville, Kutztown and East Stroudsburg to the same fiscal cliff these other schools are on,” Martin said.
The first cohort of students will begin at a consolidated university in August 2022 and the integrated curriculum being finalized by August 2024.