University Integrations System Redesign

Integrations FAQs


System Redesign - University Integrations

This document seeks to answer some frequently asked questions as the integrations planning process continues. It is updated frequently to reflect the ongoing action of the Board of Governors and integration working groups, as well as engagement with stakeholders.

We have developed plans for six universities to consolidate their operations and academic programming to affordably and sustainably expand student opportunities. Two sets of three universities are integrating into single accredited entities—each with a unified leadership team, a single faculty and staff, a single academic program array, a unified enrollment strategy, and a single budget—all while respecting local institutional identity.

At a time when universities across the country are financially challenged, it’s incumbent upon the State System to creatively ensure that its institutions are open, vibrant and centered on student success. The goals of the integrating universities, including California, Clarion and Edinboro in the west and Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield in the northeast, are to maintain or expand premier educational opportunities for students across the state, position institutions for growth, and meet regional economic and workforce needs.

Yes. Integrations are an important means of supporting System Redesign by stabilizing the System financially and ensuring our universities together are able to meet the changing needs of all Pennsylvania’s students, communities and employers.

No. Institutional integrations are designed to prevent closures. Integrated institutions are meant to foster more academic opportunities for students in critically important regions of Pennsylvania and in critically important program areas. To do nothing would potentially endanger the universities financially and severely reduce academic opportunities.

Act 50 of 2020 was approved by Pennsylvania’s General Assembly with near unanimity and was signed by the Governor in June 2020. The Act provides the Board of Governors with authority to restructure the State System’s institutions through a consultative and transparent process that includes outreach with local stakeholders and elected state leaders. For more on Act 50, please click here.

Because the well-known financial challenges faced by the System have grown to a point where they now threaten our ability to serve all Pennsylvanians, irrespective of their ZIP code, with high quality, affordable higher education, taking action now is imperative. Integrations give us the best chance to continue this mission and to expand the breadth of educational opportunities available across the state.

The right scale is key to the success of integrations. We aim to achieve a scale that will provide the full breadth of academic programming for students while also setting the stage for greater efficiency and cost savings than a smaller university could achieve on its own. The initial financial review showed that three-university and four-university integrations could achieve a similar level of success. Given the complexity of the process, we focused on a manageable three-university integration in the west and another three-university integration in the northeast.

The choices reflect the data, which suggest there are significant benefits from these universities working together as regional partners. Benefits include:

  • Potential for growth into new markets to serve more students;
  • Ability to leverage their regional proximity to one another; and
  • Opportunities for cost savings (thanks to scale) that enhance financial sustainability.

The data we have are not leading us to consider any other integrations at this time.

Yes. While the System has traditionally featured 14 largely independent public universities, we are a single corporate structure. If one or more universities are struggling financially, that burden is shared across the System. So, all State System universities have a vested interest in the success of all our institutions.

As part of the multi-year process, we have already completed a financial review and alignment analysis that determined institutional integrations make sense. In February 2021, the chancellor presented an integrations progress report reflecting the work of more than 1,000 students, faculty, staff and volunteers who have contributed to the integrations effort.

The earliest integrated universities are slated to welcome students is the Fall 2022 semester.

The integrating universities and the State System have engaged with stakeholders throughout the process to keep them informed and help to inform our decisions. The plan development process has been broadly consultative and transparent. During this process, universities have been working together to develop plans that align with the State System’s vision for university integrations. Final Board-approved plans from July 2021 are available online —West and Northeast.

No. We entered into this process understanding how important it is to respect the value of institutional identities and what they mean to stakeholders like students, alumni, donors, faculty, staff, trustees, and others. This process continues to honor local identity while creating something new through university integrations.

Trustees are firmly embedded in these conversations and will be throughout the ongoing process to ensure every campus has a voice in the decision-making processes of the integrated university.

Everyone. We have already done extensive outreach to stakeholders and will continue to do so throughout the process. All stakeholders had a voice in the planning process, including the diverse group of over 1,000 individuals who comprised the working groups who developed each plan.

Upon preliminary approval from the Board of Governors on April 28th, a 60-day public comment period, April 29th through June 30th, included four public hearings. But our engagement did not end there. Throughout this ongoing process, students, faculty, staff, administrators, trustees, legislators, and other members of the community will continue to be consulted.

Yes. The integration process is designed to include student input. Students have broad representation as part of the system-level advisory group, regional student advisory groups and through individual working group engagement.

Students can expect to see the benefits of these changes in Fall 2022, when the integrated universities begin enrolling their first class of students.

Yes. In fact, this effort is intended to expand the academic supports and opportunities available to students by taking advantage of the greater scale that results from institutional integrations. This provides our institutions the best opportunity to continue providing a quality education at an affordable price for students.

Yes. A current student will be able to complete the program in which they are currently enrolled, and it is the intent of integrating universities to honor each campus identity, including retaining the campus name on a student’s diploma.

There has never been a better time to be a State System student. Every student, including those enrolled at an integrating university, will be able to finish their program of study and earn a degree from the campus in which they are enrolled. Students will also have access to many new opportunities, experiences, and degree programs that will arise from university integrations.

The transfer process will remain simple and maximize the credits a student can transfer to an integrated university. A transfer student will be able to complete their declared major at an integrated campus and earn a degree.

Current students will be able to complete their declared major on the campus where whey started. Some courses may be delivered through flexible delivery formats, virtually or by faculty located on another campus. Students will not be required to travel between campuses, although a student may choose to do so.

Future students will find that an integrated university with multiple campus locations, including a virtual campus, offers an expanded selection of academic programs, courses and faculty expertise, and potential access to more internships and experiential learning opportunities. This broad selection of academic programs and opportunities creates pathways for a student to start anywhere in the western or northeastern Pennsylvania regions and finish both their undergraduate and graduate degrees at any of the three northeastern or western campus locations, online, or through a combination of online and in-person classes at the campus of their choice. University integration is also intended to expand academic support, so students will have greater opportunities for academic success. No matter which campus a student chooses, State System universities are committed to providing each student with a premier high-quality education at an affordable price.

Classes will be solely online only if a student chooses to enroll fully online. If a student prefers a traditional college experience, that opportunity is available. As has always been true, a student can expect a residential (or commuter) campus experience at every campus, with courses delivered on campus and with close, personal interaction with the professors for which our campuses are known. Integration will create many new opportunities to access courses, majors, minors, degrees and stackable credentials. Some courses and programs may be conducted remotely or through hybrid modalities across the identified campuses. This is a model that campuses have already undertaken with great success.

Yes, financial aid and scholarship commitments will carry over. As always, privately funded scholarships will be awarded and disbursed based on the donor’s criteria.

By design, integrations are intended to minimize the financial burden on students and their families while supporting the financial sustainability of each campus.

Yes, a single application process is anticipated to be available for students across the integrated universities as part of a seamless admissions process for students enrolling in Fall 2022.

Yes. The outcome of university integration is purposeful in its intent to retain a campus’ name and preserve its historical identity, brand, campus experiences and value proposition.

Students will have access to an even greater list of undergraduate and graduate programs and courses of study. The goal is to provide a single portfolio of excellent, career-relevant academic programs to meet the needs of students as well as their future employers. Current students who have declared a major will be able to complete a degree within that major.

Integrating campuses are pursuing a path with the NCAA that allows each campus to retain and continue its current complement of sports and existing sports teams.

No. Students still must earn a cumulative grade-point average of 2.0 or higher to be considered in Good Academic Standing. Some accredited programs may continue to require a higher cumulative and/or major GPA to be admitted or to continue in the major.

Yes. There will be many opportunities for students to engage in student government and other campus activities through which they may grow their leadership skills, no matter which campus a student chooses.

Potential employment impacts do exist. However, while universities work to better align their costs with revenue, we recognize it is not just about balancing budgets but it’s also affordability and accessibility. We remain committed to providing affordable, career-relevant, high-quality educational opportunities for students, on every campus.

Online or distance learning can take several forms.

  • Synchronous delivery uses tools such as Zoom or other web conferencing tools to let students participate in a class in real time from a remote location. For example, a student at one campus might use Zoom to join a class taught by a professor on another campus. This delivery mode is sometimes called “remote learning.”
  • Asynchronous delivery allows students to complete coursework on their own schedule, from any location. In addition to completing required readings and other assignments, students in courses delivered asynchronously may utilize instructional videos, discussion boards and other tools to engage with the professor and classmates. This delivery mode is sometimes called “fully online.”

Hybrid programs typically require students to take a mix of in-person and online/remote learning courses as they progress toward their degree.

In-person programs, which can be completed entirely on campus, may include some remote or fully online course options to provide more flexibility for students as they plan their schedule. Currently, most students taking in-person programs choose to take at least one online course per semester.

Although this may vary by major or campus, we expect that at least 75 percent of your courses will be delivered in person, on your home campus. Most students currently take at least one online course per semester, so this is consistent with what most students are experiencing now.

University administrators, integrations leaders and faculty will work together to develop curriculum and implement it over the course of three years. This is one of the most important aspects of the integration work, and every effort will be made to ensure we produce the best possible product for our students and communities.

Contingent upon approval of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (our institutional accreditor) – an integrated university would become the accredited, degree-granting university that results from the integration of hitherto separately accredited universities. Leveraging the continued distinctive identities of the partner institutions that contribute to it, the integrated universities will offer a range of benefits to its students and communities, notably in the number of programs, separate complement of athletic teams, as well as co-curricular and career preparation opportunities that will be available.

Additionally — as the accredited entity, as with all institutionally accredited universities, integrated universities will

  • Confer degrees upon students at all campuses
  • Employ faculty and staff at all campus locations
  • Develop a single academic curriculum, assess student learning, and evaluate and improve effectiveness
  • Be the official repository of all student records
  • Hold institutional accreditation and all special program accreditations
  • Recruit and enroll students at all campuses through a single admissions process on behalf of its partner campuses
  • Package student financial aid through a single OPEID number, while maintaining three unique federal school identification numbers, allowing students to select a home campus of their choosing

University FAQs


Northeast Integration


Western Integration


A Sharing System

The systemness task group took on this question directly. It advised that we move:

  • FROM a central office, designed and organized primarily to function for the state as a compliance and administrative organ
  • TO an office reconfigured to focus primarily on strategy, data driven outcomes, and shared service connectivity for universities, while providing support for universities to ensure adherence to necessary state and federal laws, rules, and policies as stewards of the public trust.

The sharing system visions entails the development of an academic infrastructure that leverages our combined scale to achieve massive improvements in cost as well as quality. Using that infrastructure, universities will have a greater range of opportunities to pursue their own strategic directions and, crucially, improve their students’ overall success.

No, not every program. Online instruction needs to be used strategically with reference to detailed evidence about where (with what student groups) and in pursuit of what objectives work well and less well. Additionally, the personalized and very “hands on” educational experience our universities offer is critical to many of our students. Our goal is to build on this enormous strength while at the same time integrating digital learning where it makes sense to do so.

Our hope is to not delay strategic initiatives that are being undertaken by universities. At the same time, we are asking university leadership to use their judgement. For example

  • if there is a potential investment in an IT system upgrade or other infrastructure spend in an area that is likely to be considered as potential shared service, it may be advisable to discuss with the Office of the Chancellor prior to moving forward
  • with respect of proposed new academic programs, the Chancellor’s office has agreed to process those program proposals that have been received as of February 2019, but to hold off on reviewing others until some adjustments are made to the program review and approval process. Those adjustments are being considered by the Chief Academic Officers and will be subject to further short-cycle review by a system redesign task group.

At present, shared services are defined broadly as business, administrative, academic, and academic-related functions and the service quality and cost efficiency of those functions may benefit from scaled delivery. A consultant will be hired in spring 2019 to work collaboratively to help it identify, prioritize, and make a business case for specific shared services opportunities. Decisions about which opportunities to pursue will be made by the Board of Governors upon recommendation of the Chancellor as advised by key stakeholders.

Answering this type of question is exactly why we are taking care to be as evaluative as possible and to seek input from as many sources as we can in Phase Two of System Redesign. We will consider all delivery options for shared services and make selections analytically based on a variety of criteria (e.g. cost, return on investment, time to impact, ease of implementation).

Given our corporate structure, the financial success of any one university relies upon the financial success of all others. As a result, universities are, in effect, co-investors in one another. Accordingly, we are seeking to put in place a means by which university leadership can have input into the strategies and budgets that each proposes, and in light of that review:

  • advise the Chancellor’s office with respect of academic program approval and
  • advise the Board of Governors about how it allocates state appropriated E&G and capital dollars, and how (at what level) it sets tuition.

To achieve this level of transparency and input into decision making, it is vital that universities align their strategy planning and budgeting practices – work that is just being launched now.

No specific changes are proposed at present, but it is reasonable to assume that such changes may be recommended by task groups.

The system maintains excellent data on student and university performance, and this data will be mined extensively to guide the work of System Redesign.

It is essential that the System develop financial policies and funding approaches that incentivize rather than penalize universities’ strong financial performance while also ensuring that appropriate supports are available to institutions in greater financial need. Those policies and approaches have not yet been developed but are critical to our success going forward, and they are being considered by an investment project team that is just being formed now.


Redesigning the State System

Collaboration is in our DNA. From existing shared operations (payroll, legal services, etc.) to joint academic programs, we have shining examples that we can learn from as we take collaboration to a new level. Some recent examples are enumerated below:

  • In November 2018 faculty and staff from across the system gathered for two days in Shippensburg to kick off a network through which we can deliberately share tools and approaches that our universities are using to improve student retention and success.
  • At the January 2019 Board members, Trustees, Presidents, faculty, staff, and students actively engaged in rich conversation and advised the Board about both challenges and opportunities inherent in the sharing system. Afterwards, for the first time in shared memory, Presidents, Provosts, and Vice Presidents from all 14 universities met for three hours after the Board meeting to work together to draft plans that will help guide implementation of the “sharing system” vision that was approved by the Board of Governors.

Everyone. The process has and will continue to include students, faculty, staff, university leaders, community leaders, elected officials, business leaders, and the public. The System redesign will allow us to continue to fulfill our common mission of providing high-quality, affordable education to all Pennsylvanians, and so we must all work together to create it.

The State System is experiencing the same challenges as many, if not most, public higher education institutions around the nation—a shrinking number of high school graduates; lagging state funding; and rising costs. We are redesigning the System to ensure our universities can overcome those challenges and continue to serve the students and the Commonwealth for decades to come.

The systemness task group – which was convened in October 2018 and recommended to the Board of Governors that it consider the vision of a sharing system – took this question on directly. It advised that the system needed to evolve FROM one designed primarily to sustain 14 universities TO one designed primarily to ensure success of all of Pennsylvania’s students, regardless of zip code and background.

In a variety of ways, including through university leadership. The System Redesign website will also be a good place to look for a comprehensive overview of activities and actions, and will additionally serve as a forum for people to put questions directly to the Chancellor’s office and have them answered.

Planning and communicating the roll-out of various changes will be a responsibility of the task groups that are being convened by the Chancellor and roll out plans will be vital parts of the recommendations they make. The work will include what is changing, when it would be changing, and any appropriate procedures and training. Visibility into the work of the task groups, including their recommendations, will be available from the System Redesign website, and draft recommendations will routinely be made available by all task groups for general review and comment before they are revised and submitted to the Chancellor.

We are moving into a detailed implementation planning phase that will run at least through fall 2019. During this time project teams will be recommending concrete next steps which we should begin to see implemented immediately thereafter. We are also working during this time on getting a number of basic building blocks in place – aligning university strategy planning and budget practices, implementing streamlined accountability reporting, etc. Details of the work that is underway and its progress are always available from the System Redesign website, where you will also have an opportunity to pose questions directly to the Chancellor and have them answered. There are also opportunities to be involved in task groups (nominated by leadership of key stakeholder groups) and in university based planning processes that will emerge as part of the work.