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The interim chancellor and the chair of the Board of Governors of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education offered comments today on a study of the State System conducted by the RAND Corp. A report on the study was released during a meeting of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, which commissioned the review.
– The interim chancellor and the chair of the Board of Governors of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education offered comments today on a study of the State System conducted by the RAND Corp. A report on the study was released during a meeting of the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee, which commissioned the review.
“Let me be clear, we are unequivocally committed to the success of all 14 universities within the State System,” said Board Chairwoman Cynthia D. Shapira. “Our 100,000 students and our entire Commonwealth depend on having access to the high-quality, high-value educational opportunities that our universities provide. We remain focused on that mission as we work with everyone—on our campuses and in Harrisburg—to continue progress on our System Redesign efforts.”
The RAND study affirms much of the work conducted last year by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) as part of the Board’s own top-to-bottom review of the System and its 14 universities. That effort resulted in a report presented by NCHEMS that is guiding the State System’s redesign efforts, beginning with the adoption by the Board last October of three priorities: ensuring student success, leveraging university strengths and transforming the governance/leadership structure.
“The State System is focused on doing the hard work necessary to redesign itself to be less bureaucratic and more student-focused,” said Interim Chancellor Dr. Karen M. Whitney. “There is no instant solution. Instead, it will take intentional, persistent and strategic change, and that is exactly what we’re doing.”
As part of its redesign effort, the State System has affirmed a mission statement focused on every student graduating in a timely manner with pathways for success; has eliminated out-of-date and burdensome policies; and has streamlined processes for academic program approval, facilities planning and real property acquisition and disposal. The universities are aligning their academic programs with regional workforce needs, and the System is working to enhance university flexibility to align and achieve regional affordability through strategic pricing efforts and to develop a more successful approach to collaborative procurement to capitalize on more strategic sourcing opportunities.
“Without a doubt, we’ve moved from System review to System redesign, with an eye toward System resilience, and we welcome a continued dialogue as we work together to make that happen,” Whitney said.
While the RAND study—conducted in response to the passage of a state Senate resolution—came to many of the same conclusions as the NCHEMS review, the consultants from RAND also suggested several drastic changes to the System, some of which the study states could significantly raise the cost of tuition while at the same time limiting students’ educational opportunities. The RAND study also acknowledges that there is no guarantee the recommendations would be successful.
“This study further validates our efforts to redesign the State System to help ensure the long-term sustainability, not only of the System, but also of each and every one of the universities,” said System spokesman Kenn Marshall. “We do have serious concerns about some of the recommendations included in the study because of the negative impact they could have on students.”
As such, State System leaders believe it would be ill-advised to hastily implement drastic options that could be costly to both students and their families without providing any real benefit.
“The State System should be given the appropriate opportunity to fully realize the outcomes of our strategic, intentional and thoughtful System redesign efforts, which already are showing positive results,” Marshall said. “We must keep our focus on what really matters to students and their families—affordability and access to relevant academic programs. We must create additional academic opportunities—not limit them—so that we can continue to prepare students for success in their lives and careers.”
The State System welcomes the opportunity to continue the discussion of these important issues, which are vital not only to the future of the State System, but also to the future of the Commonwealth.
“If we’ve learned anything for certain over the last year, it is that these universities, which individually have served students and the Commonwealth for more than a century, are just as important today as they were when each was founded,” Marshall said.
Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, enrolling more than 100,000 degree-seeking students and thousands more in certificate and other career-development programs. Collectively, the 14 universities that comprise the State System offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas. Nearly 520,000 State System university alumni live in Pennsylvania.
The State System universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. The universities also operate branch campuses in Oil City (Clarion), Freeport and Punxsutawney (IUP), and Clearfield (Lock Haven), and offer classes and programs at several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg and in Center City in Philadelphia.
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