State System faces ‘turning point’ in transformation and public investment
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Chancellor during 'State of the System' address calls on elected leaders to support reform efforts in 2020
HARRISBURG, Pa. – Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Greenstein delivered Wednesday the annual State of the System address by outlining a bold vision for 2020 and called on strategic partners, especially members of the General Assembly, to choose to invest in affordable and accessible public education.
The State System is requesting $487 million in state appropriations for 2020-21, a 2 percent increase over the current fiscal year. And it also is asking state leaders to support a new, separate $20 million investment in a 5-year, $100 million project that will redesign some operations, leading to substantial cost savings and new potential revenues.
“So what is the state of our System?" Greenstein said. “It is fluid, and we are at a turning point. This year, with our partners, the General Assembly, we will decide the course of public higher education in this Commonwealth."
Greenstein's 2020 vision includes showing how students at one university can access courses and programs elsewhere in the system; the execution of budget plans to ensure all universities are financially sustainable in five years; leveraging the system's massive scale of 14 universities and more than 95,000 students to achieve cost savings; and to report out progress meeting clearly identified student and university goals.
The chancellor pointed out how Pennsylvania ranks 48th in the nation in funding public higher education, calling it a public policy “choice" made by elected leaders for years. A lack of public investment leads to higher tuition, levels of student debt, and struggles to attract public and private investment.
“This can has been kicked down the road for many years," he said. “Let me confirm. There is no more road. The State System bears responsibility for this, yes. But our elected state leaders share that responsibility, and so we ask our partners to collaborate with us, to support our efforts, and set this State System up for Pennsylvania's success."
Complementary to the State System's annual general education appropriation is a new line item request for $20 million to begin a 5-year, $100 million effort to transform the System's information technology, potential online education, and other office functions by leveraging the System's massive scale. The State System projects $80 million to $120 million in cost savings alone during the next five to 10 years.
“Transformative change is not a one-time action item," Board of Governors Chair Cindy Shapira said. “It requires commitment that stretches years into the future. It requires honesty, vision, and leaders to inspire the work of others toward that vision."
Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education oversees 14 four-year public universities educating more than 90,000 students. The State System offers more than 2,300 degrees and certificates in more than 530 academic areas. 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.