HAPPENING NOW: SSC TheatreChancellor of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher education, Dan Greenstein visits SRU for an open forum. All students and staff are welcome to attend.
Posted by WSRU-TV News on Thursday, October 24, 2019
Dr. Daniel Greenstein, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) chancellor, visited SRU on Thursday and invited students, staff and faculty to an open forum to address any questions and concerns, the popular topic being PASSHE system redesign.
“I believe strongly in the power of public higher education,” Greenstein said. “In this century, higher education is one of the most reliable paths into and beyond the middle class and into a good, successful life.”
Greenstein emphasized the driving forces behind system redesign: social mobility, economic development and social justice. He added that these three issues are of great significance in the 21st century.
Compared to those who are poorer, Greenstein explained, wealthy people are five times more likely to have a college degree by age 24. He added that these numbers are “even worse” when adding race into the equation.
“It’s impossible for me to understand how we can strengthen our economy without a strong higher education sector,” he said. “We need to work at this equity issue if we’re going to solve our economic one.”
Greenstein stressed that students of all backgrounds—students from rural and urban areas, nontraditional adult students and students of color—need to be brought to the forefront and given more attention.
“We have to do better for under-served students,” Greenstein said.
Greenstein also pushed for “tolerance productivity” and the importance of introducing students to backgrounds different than their own. He said public universities are becoming one of the very few places where people from very different backgrounds can engage with each other.
“Students can learn tolerance from engaging with people different from themselves,” he said. “Tolerance is a very rare commodity in today’s world.”
PASSHE formed committees that consist of staff and faculty from all 14 state-owned universities to analyze and find solutions to issues like finance and investment, online education, shared academic programs, developmental education and supplemental instruction. Ensuring student success, leveraging the strengths of each university and transforming the governance and leadership structure are the Board of Governors’ three strategic priorities that each committee must keep in mind when meeting their objectives.
The system is also working toward ensuring more affordable college education by implementing a tuition freeze for the 2019-2020 academic year.
“It was a tough decision because it causes the universities additional financial hardship, but it was the right call,” he said. “We can’t continue to just put the cost burden on students.”
Greenstein also discussed the focus on collaboration between the 14 PASSHE universities and how they can work together to better serve students. He added that he has looked to the consortium model of collaboration, in which many different organizations work together to reach a common goal.
With excitement, Greenstein highlighted the idea of going digital and the possibilities of digital libraries and system sharing among PASSHE universities.
He addressed the questions of a professor of Modern Languages and Cultures, one of the potential programs to be involved in system sharing. He said other universities in the PASSHE system may not offer as many languages for students (SRU offers instruction in six languages), but system sharing would enable students to learn languages that are not offered on their campus.
Greenstein also addressed digital libraries as a solution to students’ high textbook costs. When he asked students in the audience how much money on average they spend on textbooks, the typical response was between $200 and $300. He said the introduction of digital libraries would relieve students of that additional cost.
“Digital libraries would provide students shared access to instructional materials at a lower cost,” he said. “Students wouldn’t have to pay the dauntingly high prices that are basically forced on them.”
PASSHE’s board of directors will also be reviewing and considering the approval of a new governance and accountability policy.
“We spent a lot of time putting in place and reshaping the structure of our governance and accountability,” Greenstein said.
He said he’d spoken with several people who could name an event that had a negative impact on their university, something that probably should never have happened, and explained that this was most likely due to poor decision making and accountability.
“We’ve spent a long time talking about this policy that will prevent this from happening,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that bad decisions won’t be made again—it just means that those mistakes won’t be made without accountability.”
Greenstein said system redesign won’t be easy because some of the approaches PASSHE is taking aren’t necessarily comfortable because of the ways they would fundamentally change the system.
“This won’t be easy, but I’m not here for easy,” he said. “I’m here for positive change.”
The process of system redesign began in early 2017 with a complete review of all of the system’s operations. Phase one of redesign, which began in July 2017, focused on establishing strategic priorities and addressing the system’s immediate needs. Phase two officially began in the fall of 2018 with the arrival of Greenstein, and phase three is set to begin in early 2020.
More information about system redesign can be found here.