By Samantah Werkheiser
“The way we’ve always done things simply isn’t good enough anymore. Change is on the horizon,” said Frank Brogan, Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) on Jan. 26 at the regularly scheduled board of governors meeting.
After a continual decline in enrollment and reduced state funding, PASSHE is launching a review that could lead to closures or mergers at the 14 state-run universities in Pennsylvania.
“We will be taking a hard look at how we are organized today, and how we need to be organized in the future in order to continue to serve our students and the Commonwealth as its public university system,” Brogan said.
According to the PASSHE website, nearly 70 percent of its funding comes from student’s tuition and there has been a gradual enrollment decline since 2010.
It should be noted that ESU is not one of the school’s in danger of a closure or a merger, as they have had continual increases in enrollment in the past three years.
The schools that face the possibility of a merger or a closure are as follows: California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock.
Brogan attributed the decline in enrollment to several factors including competition with private and community colleges , the 2008 recession and “the baby boom echo,” which is the simple fact that there are just less college-aged kids nowadays.
“Our energies should be used constructively, that is, not looking for how to tear our universities down but to build them up so that they can be more affordable to more people and not leave students with years of debt,” said Dr. Kenneth Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF).
“All of the universities are recruiting students for the upcoming academic year. Those students should be confident that their universities will be there for years to come,” said Mash when asked about the possibilities of merging and closing for the other universities.
Mash also thinks that some of Chancellor Brogan’s wording was “unfortunate” and that he should better clarify his statements, though he blames the media as well for taking what Chancellor Brogan said out of context.
Brogan said that all “stakeholders” would be involved in the review; this includes students, faculty, administrators, alumni and elected officials as well.
“Every bit of this system-as great as it has been over the years-will be examined,” said Brogan in regards to the review.
President Welsh is confident that ESU can overcome any financial problems they face if they stick together and continue to innovate.
“At ESU, we must determine what we can do to be more efficient, to have currency in our academic programs, and to ensure we best serve the needs of our students,” said Welsh in her official e-mail sent out to students.
Students have also expressed concern and discontent with the school system following the Chancellor’s announcement.
“I think colleges put too many resources into programs that don’t get students jobs after graduation because it doesn’t matter to them either way because they get their money. I think they need to invest more into their students,” said Kyle Daniels, a sophomore business major.
PASSHE plans to hire a third-party consultant to conduct the review, which will take four months to complete.
Closures and mergers are not yet an official option, but PASSHE did said that “everything is on the table” in regards to options.
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