New focus on students, tuition
Amid a transition period within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and its universities, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) is prepared to continue its focus on students and lowering the cost of the state’s tuition.
At the beginning of September, PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan retired, leading to the appointment of former Clarion University President Karen Whitney as PASSHE’s interim chancellor and a national search for Brogan’s permanent replacement.
APSCUF President Kenneth Mash said he is prepared to work with Whitney to accomplish each of the union’s goals; specifically, the issue of rising tuition rates.
“We think we should collaborate with issues on campus and making tuition affordable,” Mash said. “It’s becoming increasingly expensive and the ramifications we are facing will last well beyond our time.”
Mash said the union is not in favor of PASSHE’s current per-credit tuition model, and said it benefits PASSHE financially while hurting students.
“The model may be of financial interest, but it’s a model we’ve been opposed to because from our perspective, we’re supposed to supply quality education at the lowest cost to students,” Mash said.
As tuition rates rise, PASSHE enrollment rates have shown a continued decline over the last several years. SU President Laurie Carter said the cause of the decline is due to a nationally low number of high school students graduating each year, and will mean that PASSHE schools must look to groups such as graduate and international students to fill the hole left by undergraduates.
“Enrollments are down — having said that, that was predictable because that number was inflated so we’re not as far down as we were 10 years ago,” Mash said.
While SU has been affected by a declining number of high school students, no school has been affected as much as Cheyney University. Cheyney lost more than half of its student population since 2010 and has been fighting to maintain accreditation in recent months.
Other universities, including Mansfield and Clarion, issued letters of retrenchment last spring that created the potential for faculty layoffs at the end of the 2017–18 academic year. Of the five letters submitted, Cheyney’s letter is the only one to not have been retracted.
“We continue to believe Cheyney has an important mission,” Mash said. “We believe there is an important audience here. The responsibility [to help Cheyney] is shared by a lot of institutions, including PASSHE.”