Money savings and data were the themes during Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Chancellor Daniel Greenstein’s virtual visit to Slippery Rock University Feb. 25.
Greenstein opened up the meeting discussing the value of a college degree along with how SRU and PASSHE can overcome stagnant enrollment and funding from the state.
With the state system allocated to receive more than $400 million in funding for the upcoming year, Greenstein expects the system to revise the allocation to universities formula in an effort to soften the hit well-performing universities take due to their underperforming counterparts.
With the current allocation formula, universities like SRU receive less money from the system because of their better performance compared to their financially stressed sister universities, like Cheyney and Edinboro Universities.
Along with reformulating how much funding universities receive, PASSHE has been in the process of combining the resources of six of its universities into two collaborative units. The state system says that by combining universities to have them share resources and integrate programming, expenses can be reduced across the board.
“So, the savings in terms of dollars saved, they’ll probably mostly come in administrative overhead management roles you don’t need,” Greenstein said.
The first changes to come to the state system, however, were not in administrative jobs but faculty positions. PASSHE announced back in November that more than 100 faculty members across five universities would be retrenched. Not all of those positions came from universities that are set to integrate.
Those faculty reductions are not tied heavily to financial savings but to student opportunity, Greenstein said. The vision, according to Greenstein, is that universities that offer a program with low, unsustainable enrollment will be able to work with the other universities it is teamed up with to keep that program around instead of having to drop it completely.
Still, faculty members wanted to know what if any of the savings would be to PASSHE in the first year without those faculty, but Greenstein did not know at the time.
Along with integration and staffing cuts, Greenstein said the system has to do better at getting more community college graduates into PASSHE schools.
According to Greenstein, only 15% of all Pennsylvania community college graduates continue their education at a PASSHE university.
Greenstein would like to see a plan in place where those who graduate from a community college would transfer to a PASSHE university and be considered a junior.
While the Pennsylvania Transfer and Articulation Center (PA-TRAC) does have a program of agreements between two- and four-year colleges to accept students with associate’s degrees as juniors, much of it depends on the specific program the school offers and where the student transfers to.
With plans moving along even during a pandemic, the dedication and hard work of the SRU and PASSHE community continues to inspire Greenstein to press forward, he said.
“One of the things I admire most is how the progress continues to be made in the strategic areas, which are going to contribute to your long-term success, even in these disruptive times of pandemic,” Greenstein said. “And, you know, it’s a can-do culture, I encountered it from the first time I arrived and I admire it.”