Study recommends changes to state university system

HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) – A study says Pennsylvania’s system of state-owned universities faces considerable challenges that threaten the sustainability of its operations 

The RAND Corporation study recommends changes that range from making improvements to the state system to merging the 14 universities into one or more of the state-related universities as branch campuses.

“Some of the recommendations would be very costly to students and the report acknowledges that, that it would likely result in higher tuition fees, and fewer educational opportunities,” Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education spokesman Kenn Marshall said.

Other options in the report are consolidating the 14 state-owned universities by merging the schools in each region of the state, eliminating the state system structure and converting the universities to state-related schools, or placing all state universities under the management of a large state-related university.

Pennsylvania’s state-related universities are Penn State, Pitt, Temple, and Lincoln.

“The state-related are facing some of the very same problems that we are, so I’m not sure how making us state-related or putting us under the control of the state-related institutions would really address the issues that we’re facing,” Marshall said.

The study says enrollment has declined 13 percent between 2010 and 2016, state appropriations are limited and have declined, and 11 of the 14 universities are operating in a deficit. It says opportunities to change are hindered by state regulations, inflexible faculty labor relations, and governance that is reportedly bureaucratic and places politics above system needs.

“If one thing can be said, over the last year, I think a lot more people realize just how important these universities are to our students, their communities, to their regions, and to the entire commonwealth,” Marshall said.

Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester.