Recently, a bill that is aimed at allowing larger, financially stable universities in the state system to secede from the system was introduced in the Pa. Senate.
Under the legislation, qualifying member universities of Pennsylvania’s State System for Higher Education (PASSHE) could leave the system and become a state related university like Penn State, Temple, University of Pittsburgh and Lincoln Universities.
Of the schools in western Pennsylvania – California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock – only Clarion University would not qualify to split away.
The bill, introduced by State Sens. Robert Tomlinson, R-Bucks, and Andrew Dinniman, D-Chester, is meant to address funding gaps in the state system and enrollment declines at its schools.
We think that the bill would do more harm than good for the system, eventually leading to higher tuition prices and weakening and/or dissolving faculty and staff unions.
“There will be a natural proclivity to want to raise tuition and fees when that independence is there and you become a state related,” PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan said.
Chancellor Brogan pointed out the state system schools like Slippery Rock currently charge about $7,000 a year, and the independent state schools like the University of Pittsburgh and Penn State are about $10,000 more.
How can we, as students, possibly support something that will cost us more money, adding thousands of dollars to our already high debt load?
The main area of support for the bill comes from West Chester University, a university 45 minutes outside of Philadelphia. One of the bill’s sponsors, Republican State Senator Tommy Tomlinson, is a West Chester trustee.
According to Inside Higher Ed, the university’s foundation has even hired a PR firm to lobby for the bill.
West Chester is the only university in the system that is steadily gaining students. Over the past decade, twelve of the 14 universities lost enrollment, including six that suffered double-digit percentage declines; another had only a 0.4 percent gain, according to Inside Higher Ed.
The ‘divide and conquer’ plan that West Chester seems to be in favor of perhaps has not taken under consideration that state related schools, such as Pitt and Penn State, succeed in part due to the large amount of branch campuses they have as a financial support base – a base the PASSHE schools do not have to rely upon.
The split from PASSHE would undoubtedly raise tuition for all students, when affordable education is the mission of the state system.
With that in mind, we could not possibly support any institution leaving, especially Slippery Rock University.