PASSHE approves redesign proposal, ends APSCUF contract negotiations

The Pennsylvania Board of Governors (BoG) approved a redesign of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) on Wednesday, promising a reorganization of leadership and a renewed focus on student success.

Last year, PASSHE began a review of the state’s universities with a plan to use the review’s findings to improve the system. During that time, numerous groups including private organizations and various stakeholders were consulted for feedback, according to a PASSHE press release. A review of PASSHE was also conducted by the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) last spring.

“It’s time we begin to put our words into action,” BoG Chairwoman Cynthia Shapira said in the press release. “It should be obvious that our top priority is ensuring student success. It should be our goal that every student graduates in a timely manner with a career plan that leads to success.”

Last week, PASSHE and the Association of Pennsylvania College and University Faculties (APSCUF) came to a tentative agreement that will extend the contracts of faculty members of the state’s 14 universities through June 2019.

“We have been committed to working together to achieve a new agreement in a collaborative manner,” said Karen Whitney, PASSHE Interim Chancellor, in a APSCUF and PASSHE press release. “As we move toward a positive conclusion for this contract, I’m hopeful it will lead to an even more meaningful relationship based on mutual respect and trust.”

APSCUF President Kenneth Mash said communication regarding contract negotiations has improved with the change in PASSHE leadership.

“We are happy that we were able to bypass the anxiety that has accompanied every previous contract negotiation in recent memory and that we can give our full attention to our students,” Mash said. “After our previous contract negotiations, we were determined to improve the overall negotiations process, and I am happy to report that our communication with the system vastly improved with these talks.”

Details of the new contract will be released after the contract has been ratified by APSCUF and approved by the BoG.

The BoG also agreed to seek an appropriations budget for the 2018–19 academic year of more than $500 million. Next year’s budget includes a more than $75 million increase from this year’s budget, which experienced a $50 million cut from the year before.

If PASSHE’s budget proposal is approved, no tuition increases will be needed for the 2018–19 year, according to the press release.

“It is our responsibility to be transparent about our need by requesting full funding of our requirement to balance our budget,” said David Maser, chair of the BoG’s Finance, Facilities and Administration Committee.

The budget proposal will be submitted to the Governor’s Budget Office later this month, and the governor will submit his response to the proposal in February. 

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