Harrisburg – The 14 Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities are continuing their efforts to better align academic program offerings with the changing demands of students and the Commonwealth. As new academic programs emerge to meet those demands, less viable programs might be identified for reorganization or closure, which could affect some faculty and staff positions.
In order to fulfill their obligations under the collective bargaining agreement between the State System and its faculty union, five universities have notified their local union leaders that some positions might be affected at the end of the 2014-15 academic year. Letters of notification regarding the possibility were sent by the universities to the chapter presidents at Cheyney, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, and Mansfield Universities of Pennsylvania. Clarion University of Pennsylvania also is continuing the process it began last year.
The contract with the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) requires universities to notify the union by Aug. 1 about possible “retrenchment” of positions that might occur at the end of the next academic year. The decision whether to actually eliminate any positions next year would be made as early as October.
State System Chancellor Frank T. Brogan issued the following statement:
“Each and every one of our universities is making strategic decisions now that will ensure relevance, quality, and vitality well into the future. The institutions continue to examine their existing program offerings and the talented faculty who provide the expertise to deliver those programs. The State System is evolving so it can meet the future needs of our students and the Commonwealth.
“The universities are making choices about which academic programs and support services best contribute to the vision and mission of each institution. While programmatic changes could impact some faculty and staff now, the exponential effect of these efforts will enable the universities to anticipate the needs of our students in the years ahead.
“To be clear, this kind of program alignment is not solely a response to declining resources; it is an essential action taken to ensure that each university and the entire State System remain current in addressing the needs of students and their place in our global society and marketplace.
State System spokesman Kenn Marshall stated further:
“It is important to note right up front that the contract with the faculty union requires a university to provide what amounts to a little more than an academic year’s notice if there is the possibility that a currently filled position is being considered for elimination. That doesn’t mean any positions will be retrenched, but the universities are obligated by the contract to give notice because the possibility exists.
“No matter how many, if any, faculty members may be affected next year, this process is something universities and university presidents take seriously. Faculty and staff changes of any kind are sensitive because they involve real people, with real families. That is why the process has such a long lead time built in and includes the potential for affected faculty to move to other departments or other State System universities when opportunities exist. (Last year, 14 of our 4,200 regular faculty members were ultimately retrenched.)
“Program review and alignment at the universities is an ongoing process that helps to ensure an institution’s degree offerings are relevant and up-to-date. This past year, 39 academic programs were placed in moratorium, 30 were reorganized, and 24 new programs were created—all to meet the evolving interests of students and the changing needs of the Commonwealth.
“We are faced with additional factors that are affecting the universities, including enrollment fluctuations because of fewer high school graduates and flat funding from the state, which has required our universities to become even more efficient in how they spend their limited resources.
“Nearly 90 percent of our students come from Pennsylvania; 80 percent of our graduates will stay here after receiving their degrees to take their first job or to continue their education. The programs offered by our universities must produce graduates who are needed in the state’s economy. The decisions being made by our universities are absolutely crucial to their long-term success, and to their ability to make the necessary adjustments to curriculum and programs to ensure the needs of students and their future employers are being met.”
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, with about 112,000 students. The 14 State System universities offer degree and certificate programs in more than 120 areas of study.
The 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 operates 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.