|Harrisburg – Negotiations between the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) resume tomorrow. PASSHE Vice Chancellor for Human Resources and Labor Relations Gary Dent provided the following statement as the two sides prepare to meet:|
“With the onset of the new year we are poised to return to the bargaining table, with the goal of reaching a settlement with our final bargaining unit, APSCUF. I thought it was important to provide a brief update on where things stand and discuss our path forward.
“First and foremost, all of our stakeholders should know that PASSHE is committed to achieving a new collective bargaining agreement with APSCUF that is fair, that is affordable and that positions the System to continue to provide a quality education for years to come.
“As we have in the agreements we have reached to date, our number one focus is protecting the interests of our students and their families who provide nearly three-fourths of the revenue needed to operate our universities. For PASSHE, that certainly means arriving at an economic package that permits us to remain competitive in our ability to recruit and retain talented faculty members; they are, after all, a critical element in PASSHE’s ability to provide a quality education. But we also need to find solutions to our ever-increasing costs in certain areas, which, if not addressed, will threaten the financial viability of our System.
“Increases in healthcare costs for both active and retired employees, combined with rapidly rising pension costs, are placing unsustainable financial pressure on the universities. In this regard, PASSHE is no different from the federal or state governments, or most other organizations, all of which have identified increasing costs in these areas as urgent problems that must be addressed. We have no alternative. We must agree to new approaches before these costs overwhelm the System.
“PASSHE’s 14 universities are facing incredible and ever-increasing competition; business as usual is simply unacceptable. Throughout these negotiations with APSCUF, we have been open and transparent about the challenges we collectively face, particularly in an environment of declining state funding support and our families’ limited ability to absorb any tuition increases.
“We are just now recovering from the worst economic environment since 1937, and higher education has not been immune to these challenges. Given the impact of the recession on the Commonwealth’s budget, PASSHE leadership is preparing to once again aggressively pursue state funding in the upcoming budget debate.”
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, with about 115,000 students. The 14 PASSHE universities offer degree and certificate programs in more than 120 areas of study. Nearly 500,000 PASSHE alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.
The state-owned universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. PASSHE also operates branch campuses in Clearfield, Freeport, Oil City and Punxsutawney and several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center.