The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Board of Governors authorized Chancellor Daniel Greenstein to “review the financial impacts of integrating operations at selected System universities.”
“While honoring institutional identity, university integration may enable the System to ensure that all of its 14 institutions can sustainably provide their students and their communities with affordable, quality higher education for years to come,” officials said in a Thursday press release.
It is no secret that PASSHE is hurting financially; the state system has “figuratively kicked the can down the road” for many years. I have reported various times about the system redesign and how we must take action now to achieve fiscal sustainability for the very near future. This directive, like many of its predecessors, is a step closer to the edge of a slippery slope. The individual identity of each university is a hallmark of the system that we cannot cut from the budget.
Shippensburg University is vastly different from West Chester or Clarion universities. Our education, culture, students, faculty and Raider bowls set us apart from any other state school.
SU is not Penn State – and the university touts this on its brochures and during Raider Day tours. We are “more than a number.” At smaller state schools like SU, we have the opportunity to forge professional relationships with our peers and professors. We can go to office hours and be greeted by name.
When consolidating and “partnering” schools, I am concerned for the individualism of each university. Each one has a history and appeal to those who chose to attend. There are reasons why some students pick Cheyney over West Chester or Kutztown. I picked SU because of its accredited communication/journalism program (one of three in the state) and its location.
But what if SU was partnered with another school across the state?
According to the press release, the resolution passed by the Board directs Greenstein to examine three potential integrations:
- California and Clarion – An integration that would, in addition to on-campus programs, seek to stand up a low-cost, high-quality, online undergraduate degree and degree-completion program that is not currently available in Pennsylvania.
- Edinboro and Slippery Rock – An integration that would strengthen and broaden available academic opportunities by aligning two educational programs into one, driving down costs and coordinating enrollment strategies.
- Lock Haven and Mansfield – This arrangement could develop non-degree and stackable credentials that meet workforce needs in selected high demand occupations and concentrate on adult students, all in partnership with regional employers.
The chancellor will explore the financial impacts of university integrations that operate with:
- A unified leadership team
- A single faculty and staff
- A single academic program array
- A unified enrollment management strategy
- A unified budget
- A single reporting line to the Board through the chancellor
What would happen if SU had to “partner” with Millersville or Bloomsburg? Or heaven forbid IUP?!
All jokes aside, the monetary costs of our education may go down; however, university partnerships that support the use of a single faculty and staff, one budget and one administration comes at the cost of the student experience. And that is not a price I am willing to pay.
By losing that individualism, we, as a university, are one step closer to becoming a diploma factory, senselessly spitting out unpassionate and ill-equipped alumni into the workforce. The consolidation and “partnerships” cheapen my degree.
The closure and consolidation of PASSHE schools may be inevitable. While these partnerships are “potential integrations” we, the students, faculty and staff, of the State System are in the midst of a very real system redesign in which these options are actively being discussed.
While financial sustainability is vitally important to the system, student experience also needs to be prioritized.
"Your World Today" is a weekly column written by the editor-in-chief of The Slate. It represents solely the subjective opinion of the individual who wrote it