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Chairwoman, Chancellor Brogan, governors, presidents. It's very nice to see the new student governors here today.

I've recently been travelling around to the universities to speak with the faculty. I was impressed a few days ago, not necessarily in a good way, by a couple of faculty members who, referring to the State System, asked, "What the heck is going on? Just what is happening?" It seems like we are truly in the midst of an identity crises about who we are, what our purpose is, and what we are trying to ultimately achieve.

We've heard a lot of talk about whether universities will succeed or fail, but that really poses the wrong question entirely because universities are not businesses. If our universities don't succeed, ultimately we fail the Commonwealth and all of its citizens.

My understanding of who we are is that we are supposed to be those institutions that provide opportunities for working-class families to achieve the American dream.

Yet we continue to hear talk about closing universities and programs, and we are experiencing skyrocketing costs, not just in the terms of tuition, but also when it comes to fees and room and board. One has to start to wonder if we are in fact becoming so unaffordable that we are no longer serving our mission.

Some of the data that we've seen to come out of the State System about the average income of families that are attending our universities suggests that we are increasingly serving those in the upper middle and even the upper class. There is nothing wrong with providing an affordable education to all, but it would still seem that our fundamental mission is to help working-class people who otherwise could not afford to go to college.

It's not a shock at all that the universities that are currently in the most trouble are those that are struggling. Everyone on the board, certainly those people who were here back in 2011 and 2012, should know about the McGuire Study commissioned by the State System.  That study looked at tuition elasticity and what would be the impact of increasing tuition on enrollment at our universities. It found that six of our schools would be in jeopardy if costs went up above $3,000 a year. But yet the costs have gone up over $3,000 a year; we shouldn't be shocked that five of those six universities are in distress.

We also know from that study that students came to our universities primarily because of academic programs, academic quality, and the cost. Yet, what we have seen over these last few years is cost increases, academic programs pulled back, and other academic cuts.

Now no doubt we are in this position because our state allocation was decreased, and it has not kept pace. That creates tremendous problems, but we also have to look at whether we are creating self-inflicted wounds. Are we really concerned with that price sensitivity, and what we are doing to prospective students and families that otherwise wouldn't be able to come to our universities?

When we talk about closing some universities and those universities that were the most price sensitive, we are discussing those universities that were in the poorest regions or serving students from poorer areas of the Commonwealth. No doubt we know there have been demographic changes that impact enrollment, but did we exacerbate that problem by enacting policies without asking every single time there's a new project and every time there is a new fee increase, "What will be the impact on the students we serve?" We must constantly remind ourselves of the answers to the fundamental questions of who we are, what our mission is, and who we are meant to serve?

Thank you!

Retrenchment article

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties has released a statement about possible faculty layoffs at California, Cheyney, Clarion, and Edinboro Universities. Click here to read the press release.

APSCUF live-tweeted last month’s State System budget-appropriations hearings before the Senate and House of Representatives. Watch both sessions in their entirety on our YouTube channel. Together, the hearings last about five hours, so we’ve compiled the segments we thought were of most interest to APSCUF members. Here are the highlights (and lowlights) from the House.

Some background: Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education's Board of Governors requested a 2017–18 appropriation of $505.2 million, an increase of $61 million. In his address in February, Gov. Tom Wolf announced $8.9 million more for our 14 universities in his budget proposal.

Chancellor Frank Brogan, Bloomsburg University President David Soltz, and Logan Steigerwalt, Board of Governors nominee and Slippery Rock University student, responded to legislators' questions.

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Rep. Stan Saylor, House appropriations chairman, began, “Our state-owned universities are a valuable asset to our Commonwealth, but that doesn’t mean that we should accept the status quo. With the changing economy, our universities must be responsive to today’s job market, and our primary focus as elected officials should be ensuring that our young people have access to higher-quality education and sustaining jobs. ... During these hearings we’re looking forward to hearing about how we can graduate students with good job opportunities in Pennsylvania and how PASSHE is working to reinvent itself and how PASSHE is retooling the way it delivers higher education. We also need to reexamine whether the current complement of universities is necessary to meet today’s post-secondary education needs.”

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Rep. Karen Boback asked Brogan to expand on a statement from the material the State System provided to representatives: “To ensure the system will thrive in the future, the universities will need the continued support of the commonwealth and its taxpayers. Simply providing more money, however, will not solve the challenge facing the universities.” She also asked in what ways the chancellor would change the State System if it were up to him and what help legislators can give.

“Simply saying, ‘We’ll keep finding more money,’ is not only difficult, it is improbable to support exactly the same system,” Brogan said. He mentioned the baby boom echo, declining demographics in Pennsylvania, regional market problems, and declining state revenue. He also outlined the purpose of the State System’s strategic review.

“How do we look at our system for purposes of deciding what it should look like going forward to guarantee sustainability, individually and collectively as institutions, and to make sure that on the academic side of the ledger that we are organized in terms of our academic program array with differentiated missions for our universities, tamping down unnecessary redundancy, and assuring that students will have availability continued of a high-quality, affordable educational experience that has to plug within the future of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” Brogan said. He emphasized legislators’ involvement in the system and the input they would have in its strategic review. He mentioned the State System’s $61 million request, which it submitted in October “even before we closed out collective bargaining.”

“So even though it’s 61, it actually ballooned beyond that over time,” Brogan said. “But we don’t say that 61 is your obligation. I make this case: Those bills have to be paid within the revenue that we end up having. … That is the need, and how we all work together to accomplish meeting that need will be decided over the course of the next several months.”

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Rep. Donna Bullock lauded the upward mobility higher education can facilitate. She decried Senate education chair Sen. John Eichelberger's comments at a town hall the previous week. She asked Brogan if he agreed with the statement that the commonwealth is misspending money by encouraging students to pursue higher education, about the makeup of students at State System universities, and about student success.

Brogan described the system’s student population as generally “economically fragile.” The State System provides high-quality opportunities for students of all backgrounds, and Brogan is proud of how the State System provides an opportunity for “something better,” he said. He also mentioned concerns about rising juniors and seniors “stopping out” to procure more money to finish their schooling, which can lead to not returning at all.

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Rep. Nick Miccarelli asked about tuition rates and cost-cutting, and Brogan explained changes some universities are making even before the results of the system’s study. He outlined the system’s “three-legged stool” of revenue creation: appropriations, student tuition and fees, and cuts to existing budgets.

Miccarelli also inquired about the amount the State System spends on "illegal immigrants." Brogan explained domicile requirements for tuition rates.

“So, generally speaking, that benefit that is there for Pennsylvania taxpayers is there for anyone who lives in Pennsylvania, whether they are a taxpaying citizen or not?” Miccarelli asked. Brogan reiterated the domicile requirements. “And do you know how much the taxpayers of Pennsylvania spend on educating illegal immigrants? … I did see something in the same packet saying there’s a no-status check box for some of the universities that they can just say that they have no status here in the United States. That to me sounds like a bit of security concern if we don’t know who’s a citizen going to our schools and who isn’t.”

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Rep. Madeleine Dean echoed Bullock’s “grave disappointment” in Eichelberger’s comments and described her higher-education background.

“An education is power for the future, and it is the economic engine for this state,” she said, then asked what the State System is doing to combat enrollment declines.

The system is looking at new markets and must move away from “large buffets of academic offerings,” Brogan said.

“Some people, when I say that, say, ‘So you mean giant vocational-technical schools?’ No, not at all,” he said. “We still have to offer undergraduate courses, general education courses, elective courses along the way, but each university in our system to maintain their importance to the Commonwealth also at the same time needs to provide greater focus on what exactly it is they want to contribute to the future of the Commonwealth.”

Brogan referred to the State System’s supply-demand gap analysis.

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Steigerwalt called the State System “an excellent opportunity” and “a very cost-efficient means of getting a high-quality education.” He highlighted the small faculty-student ratio at Slippery Rock.

“It’s huge to be able to interact with your professors on a case-by-case basis and the ability to have them become mentors towards you,” he said. He also lauded experiences outside the classroom, compared with larger schools.

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Rep. Stephen Kinsey, a West Chester University graduate, discussed enrollment trends and his alma mater’s use of marketing. He suggested increasing the bonds between Philadelphia-area schools and, in particular, Cheyney University.

“Marketing, as you might imagine, is an essential part of what we do,” Brogan replied. “It’s a word that sort of flies in the face of higher education, especially for a system that for a long time would open the doors and turn on the lights and be full. Bucking the trend that is now existing, which are declining enrollments makes marketing even more important to new markets — out of state, different parts of the state — than traditionally that university went to.”

Soltz elaborated on Bloomsburg’s targeting of nontraditional students and transfer students versus a total focus on new high school graduates.

Kinsey asked for an update of the plan for permanent leadership for Cheyney University.

“A leadership look is gonna be very important to that,” Brogan said, referring to the previous day’s decision about Cheyney University. “Finding the right person who can come in and lead the charge on that change in direction is gonna be essential to us. But I think also the board sent a very important message out there: that there intends to be a Cheyney and make that search a little bit more palatable to interested, qualified parties.”

Kinsey used his final seconds of allotted time to ask directly: “Were there plans, are there plans, to close Cheyney University?”

“No,” Brogan replied. “Yesterday what the board did was to provide one more round of transitional funding with the statement that the plan that is currently on the table is gonna require years of additional funding that the system just doesn’t have any more and therefore in the time remaining for that transitional period, we’re gonna have to pivot for a new model for Cheyney that will very quickly see revenue match expenditures, and thus creating a future for the institution that is sustainable.”

“So does that mean there’s no plan to close Cheyney University?” Kinsey asked again.

“There is not,” Brogan replied.

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Rep. Brad Roae commented on average cost per student, focusing on Cheyney University.

“When the whole system is very, very financially fragile, are we gonna let the whole system collapse and all 14 of them close, or are we gonna try to save the ones we can?” Roae asked. “Are we gonna try to get the schools that need more aid per student, are we gonna try to get them down closer to that, you know, $4,300 average? What’s the plan as far as that goes?”

Brogan responded, “The approach to dealing with declining enrollment and declining state revenue and inability and event lack of desire to just automatically transfer that onto students has not met the nexus with the typical university approach to all of those things, which is to continue to do what we’ve always done, exactly the way we’ve always done it, with the same number of people and hopefully grow back in to what we used to be. The good old days, as I call them. … That is exactly the problem that we have faced. The math is swamping that boat. … This review and the recommendations for change that come as a result of it, representative, must give us, at the end of the pipe, institutions that are sustainable for the revenues they generate both from our appropriation — 400 and some-odd million dollars from the state, and whatever is generated through tuition and fees. We cannot make a living off of moving money from other universities to financially distressed institutions, at least on the long-term side. … And that’s got to be the predicate upon which we build this review and the expectations coming out of it.”

Roae closed by asking “how much more expensive is it now than it would have been without that new contract?” referring to APSCUF’s faculty agreement.

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Rep. Patty Kim discussed upward mobility and affordability, and she asked what the State System is doing to help students continue on.

Brogan explained price-pointing and the flexibility the State System now allows individual universities, including per-credit tuition. He said the State System is “tracking the metrics” to make sure per-credit tuition is “not having any negative impacts on enrollment and also to see if there are any positive impacts.” (Click here to read APSCUF’s stance on per-credit tuition, and click here to read some interviews in which APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash discusses per-credit tuition.)

“We all know this: If you can graduate in four years instead of five, you’re gonna save a boatload of money,” Brogan said. He said the State System’s average family income is about $85,000 a year. The State System is working hard to address the problem of rising juniors and seniors leaving to make more money to pay for school — but not returning — and is targeting scholarships at juniors and seniors, he said.

“The amount of advising and counseling done by our folks at our universities — and that obviously includes faculty, they are important to that process — reviewing regularly the student transcript to see are they on track, are they taking the courses that will help them not only to get a degree but to get a degree as expeditiously as possible, is really a lifeline of helping people get through the system of higher ed,” Brogan said.

He highlighted that the State System’s students’ default rate on student loans is lower than the national average.

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Rep. Warren Kampf also asked about contract-related costs for 2017–18. Brogan responded with the cost for all units, $49 million. Kampf followed by asking about “savings.” Brogan described changes to the healthcare coverage. Kampf pressed for specifics. Lois Johnson, associate vice chancellor for administration and finance with the State System, described APSCUF healthcare changes.

“I have a constituent who educates me a little bit on higher-ed matters, and he indicates that the trend has been to go to part-time faculty,” Kampf said to Soltz. “Some of that is for cost-saving purposes, you know, adjunct faculty and whatnot. Can you give me a flavor on your campus whether that’s going on? Do you find it useful? Is it a problem?”

Soltz explained the 25 percent adjunct cap of the APSCUF contract and that Bloomsburg and most State System universities are close to but below that threshold.

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It should concern everyone that State System is so expensive for students, Rep. Kevin J. Boyle said. He pointed out the effect of former Gov. Tom Corbett’s budget cuts.

“I believe so passionately in education,” Boyle said. “Not just because it makes better human beings, but also if you’re gonna compete in the global economy of 2017, you need to have a college education.”

He commented on the high cost of public higher education in Pennsylvania and asked Brogan, “I wanted to see what your opinion was of the devastating effect that our inability as a legislature and a state to fund your operations, how does that impair you in comparison to other states, particularly states here in the northeastern United States who fund their state education colleges much more than we do?”

Brogan said revenue streams and sources were things the State System needs to review during its study.

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“Affordability is not always just trying to find out how to get students more money to pay for the cost that keeps going up,” Brogan said. “It’s also about the cost of the product and trying to see if we can hold down costs of what we do. That’s how you create real affordability. Just finding new money to give to people to keep paying for more is masking the real issue of affordability. So as we review this thing, that issue of sustainability, and I hate to beat a dead horse, I’m maybe doing it, but if we come out that review and change the system to first require that those universities that are a part of it must operate within the revenues they generate and cannot bet on the come as we have been prone to do over years by saying we can keep writing checks we can’t cash, but we’ll figure out how to do that later on and ofttimes pass those costs onto families and individual students, it’s not a sustainable model. It won’t work, and the math will catch up with you. It’s catching up with us now. And so by virtue of that fact, while, yes, we’re always on the hunt for new ways to help students fund their higher-educational experience — nobody, as I mentioned, should lose a higher-educational experience for the want of $1,000 that they can’t get their hands on — but at the same time, that doesn’t solve the real problem, which is the continued, escalating costs, pensions and healthcare, general rate of inflation. And again, we are 80-some-odd percent of our budgets are people. We’re in the people business, and the rising costs of compensation and benefits continues to march forward.”

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Rep. Sheryl M. Delozier asked for clarification about the costs of the contract increases. She also asked about reserves for school struggling financially.

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Rep. Jerry Knowles, a graduate of Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, asked what percent of students get jobs in their field after graduating. About 75 percent move into gainful employment, Brogan said, according to the State System’s survey data.

“Based on the fact that the kids from Thaddeus Stevens are getting jobs — as electricians, plumbers, carpenters, welders — might any of the 14 schools within your organization, might they consider the Thaddeus Stevens route, the Thaddeus Stevens model?” Knowles asked.

Brogan shared Clarion University’s announcement “that they are pivoting to become a professional degree-granting institution based largely on their region — teaching, nursing, business degrees.”

“Because again they have over the years evolved into offering a wide array of degrees and programs and courses,” Brogan said. “They recognize that if they’re gonna contribute not only more graduates but also graduates who can move to jobs and with the resources they have available that they desperately need to focus those resources on becoming more of a professional institution.”

Of the entire system, Brogan said, “At some point, you have to take stock of just how much you can offer and become more specific once again in terms of a differentiated mission for each of the universities.”

The two discussed vocational-technical training and opportunities for students after high school.

“Advanced vocational-technical training, community college, college, university, advanced degrees — there needs to be a buffet of opportunities out there after high school available to anybody who wants it or needs it,” Brogan said.

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Rep. Mary Jo Daley expressed her concerns about the need for food pantries for students. Brogan said the issue “bubbled up to the surface” when state funding was frozen.

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Rep. Fred Keller, after another contract-related clarification, asked when the State System started its review, when it will be complete, and when the system identified the need for a review.

“About 1972, I think,” Brogan answered to the latter question. “People have been talking about this idea for a long time in the Commonwealth. Its time finally came, and urgency created that.”

Keller commented on increasing costs to students and student debt.

“I think it’s incumbent upon us to make sure we’re managing the resources effectively,” he said. He followed by asking what the State System has done to reduce costs.

Brogan replied, “In our case, we’ve got during this study to move to the heart of the issue, which is, ‘What is costing us more and more, and how can we keep those costs down to the greatest degree?’ so that we don’t have to pass them along to students while also working with you to try to constantly review the appropriation and make sure it’s appropriate for the time.”

Keller asked about the typical debt load of a student leaving the State System. Brogan said the average is $32,000, paid off over about 10 years.

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Rep. Tim Briggs said he doesn't think it's a coincidence that demographics changed when the state cut a massive amount of funding from State System.

"We need to do a better job of providing the resources needed," Briggs said.

Brogan interjected to address the study.

“We not only are gonna be looking at our system within the context of this study, review, and recommendations for change,” Brogan said. “If we stop there and we don’t look at things beyond our control that are also impacting the way we do business, we will only be rearranging deck chairs. We have to look at legislation. We have to look at rules, regulations, contract issues.”

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Rep. Marguerite Quinn praised the State System’s proactivity with regard to healthcare benefits.

“I know last year we talked about the idea of conducting a dependent-benefit audit to ensure that those people who are receiving the wonderful, taxpayer-funded benefits are actually eligible for them,” Quinn said. “I did not see mention of that … if that’s not been included, I want to encourage you to look into that, especially for public jobs like your staff, faculty, etc. National statistics are pretty high for what they call ‘slippage’ on that.”

Brogan assured Quinn the System does so routinely.

Quinn also asked about building projects for schools in “more vulnerable positions.”

“As you might imagine, with capital dollars being hard to come by and our facilities being the age that they are a much higher premium has been placed on renovation and remodeling over new construction,” Brogan said. He confirmed that some projects are on hold, pending the study results.

Distance education also is a factor, he continued.

“If we’re not careful, we’re gonna end up with a lot of mothballed buildings that we built knowing that distance education was gonna have a growing impact on the whole landscape of higher education and remote sites being utilized,” Brogan said.

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Rep. Marty Flynn prefaced his questions with interrupted statements about Trump University and Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.

“What sort of changes can we expect coming from Washington, D.C., for our PASSHE schools, based on the administration’s past experience with education?” Flynn asked.

“We have no idea,” Brogan replied, adding that all of higher education await answers to those questions.

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Rep. Jim Christiana questioned the quality of State System education related to enrollment and graduation rates. He listed some statistics and mentioned an article about Edinboro University.

“Are those statistics, do they represent high quality, Mr. Chancellor?” Christiana asked.

Brogan said the two are not mutually exclusive.

“It is possible to offer a high-quality educational experience and yet at the same time, sadly, bump up against the open-enrollment mentality that says the more students we have, the more money we get,” Brogan said. “That is sort of one of the big problems that higher education faces today. We’re not just accidentally having a conversation about declining enrollment because the declining enrollment is tied to less revenue. What Edinboro has finally announced with their new president — and rightfully so — is whatever the number of students that we believe are qualified to be in our university, that’s the number of students we need to organize around and stop taking anyone who applies to the institution. There’s a balancing act there. You don’t want to slam the door on people who might have a shot, have the potential to have a shot, but saying we accepted 99 percent of those who applied, you’d better start asking yourself, unless you are Oxford, you’d better start asking yourself the question, ‘Are the students we’re taking in qualified to be here?’”

Christiana asked if the State System planned to incorporate Edinboro’s changes systemwide. Brogan described the system’s new tool, the financial-risk assessment, for each university.

“Would you agree that when a student realizes in years four, five, and six that he or she is incapable of obtaining their degree, do you agree that represents the difficult reality that we have failed that student, their families, the taxpayer, the Commonwealth as a whole when 50 percent of students are incapable of receiving their degree?” Christiana asked.

Brogan said it depends on why, but that the State System’s primary motivation should be guaranteeing it is possible to graduate in four or five years “and make sure we’re not the problem.” He said he would like to see a tighter collaboration between community colleges and the State System.

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In closing, Saylor asked, “As you go through your review process I know this summer, you have not decided as a board of trustees that you will not close any school? You have left that possibility open, that you may close a school or multiple schools, if necessary?”

“We went bigger than that just by saying, ‘Everything has to be on the table,’” Brogan replied. “We’re not advocating that. We have no plans to do that, but we believe the best way to approach this was to say there are no sacred cows, that we need to look at the whole system and try to make the right decisions going forward. But I can also tell you, because I work with them all the time, the board is not looking at closing any universities at this point. They would prefer to see repointing, reinvention to maintain sustainability, as was the case with Cheyney yesterday.”

* * *

With the hearings complete, our work in advocating for fair funding of our universities has just begun. APSCUF is working to make Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed $8.9 million appropriations increase — or more — stick in the 2017–18 budget.

APSCUF launched a series of graphics on social media, detailing how our 14 state-owned universities serve all Commonwealth residents and why an investment in our State System is an investment in the entire state. Please retweet and share the graphics on your social media accounts. Use the hashtag #fundPAfuture when posting about the Pennsylvania budget and the future of our universities.

As APSCUF celebrates its 80th anniversary, we are looking back at our history. The following is reprinted from the April 1969 APSCUF Journal.

APSCUF in the Years Ahead: Changes That Should Occur

By Richard C. Keller

By August 31, I shall have resigned the Presidency of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties several months before my term will have expired so that I may spend a sabbatical year in England. The editor of the APSCUF Journal has asked me to comment upon my tenure of nearly four years as APSCUF President and over ten years on the Executive Committee. He indicated that I should look at the future as well as summarize the past.

Keller

First, a few words about the past, which an historian cannot resist. Over the previous decade the Legislative Committee of APSCUF has built up many good contacts in Harrisburg, so that we now have access to many offices where our voice is listened to. Most of the credit for this fact must go to Norman King of Shippensburg State College, the excellent Chairman of our Legislative Com­mittee. Through these contacts we have been able to assist in bringing about significant improvements in our salary schedule and in some areas of fringe benefits. I must say, however, that in this respect we seem to run hard in order to stand still. And economic matters take so much of our time that we neglect other affairs of interest to the Association and its membership.

Perhaps this is the place to make the transition from past to future. I believe that the organizational structure of APSCUF may well be out-moded. We are facing the prospect — in the present General Assembly — of being included in a general bill to provide governmental employ­ees with the right of collective bargaining. If this happens, and I believe it will, we must become far more highly organized at both the state and local levels. Without doubt the passage of a negotiations bill will precipitate a struggle for exclusive bargaining rights in the colleges with such groups as the American Federation of Teachers, the American Association of University Professors, and the Pennsylvania State Education Association. The ques­tion that we shall have to face is whether to unite with one of these giants or to pursue an independent course with APSCUF. Even if the decision is to unify, I am reasonably sure that the faculties of the state-owned institutions will have to operate as a separate subdivision. So long as our salaries and major fringe benefits are distributed with an even hand from Harrisburg, we shall have to be organized to bargain as a group of fourteen schools at the state level.

Changes

This same situation will almost certainly force some organizational changes upon us. At the present time the Executive Committee, which consists of one delegate and one alternate elected by the local APSCUF unit of each institution, sets the policies for the organization and mans all the committees as well. The President then conducts the day-to-day business of carrying out the policies adopted by the Executive Committee. I believe that the workload will have to be redistributed by permitting the policy group to choose committee members from the entire membership of the Association, so that we can make use of talent wherever it appears. We shall need, I think, an executive secretary with a permanent office in Harrisburg, and he would have to direct a team of negotiators (which could be similar to the present Legislative Committee). It becomes obvious that all of this cannot be done with the present APSCUF dues structure.

On the local campus the APSCUF unit, assuming it survives an election to choose a bargaining agent, will have to deal with the administration on such matters as teaching loads, local tenure practices, office space, and the like: for we hope that state-wide bargaining will involve only salaries and economic fringe benefits. This means that we can no longer afford the kind of local which conducts desultory meetings once or twice a year and puts on a lackadaisical campaign for members. This Association cannot survive if it does not have strong local units representing the overwhelming majority of faculty and is able to sit down and talk on even terms with the administration on each campus.

These are the kind of decisions which will be facing us within the next year or so. Perhaps the future course of the Association already will have been determined when I get back from England in the summer of 1970. Perhaps I shall return to see several more universities instead of state colleges, a State Board of Directors to implement the Master Plan, an AAUP censure list free of names of any of our state colleges, and a Board of Presidents for which I need a scorecard. In any case, I wish my successor the best of good fortune, and I hope to hear that the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties has had a long string of achievements.

Richard C. Keller was a faculty member in the history department of Millersville University (when it was Millersville State College)

 

Ken at Mansfield

State APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash talks with Mansfield University APSCUF members at a 2016 meeting.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties has released a statement about possible faculty layoffs at Mansfield University. Click here to read today's press release.

APSCUF live-tweeted last month’s State System budget-appropriations hearings before the Senate and House of Representatives. If you missed those tweets, you can catch up here or watch both sessions in their entirety on our YouTube channel. Together, the hearings last about five hours, so we’ve compiled the segments we thought were of most interest to APSCUF members. First up, the Senate session, clocking in at almost three hours.

Some background: Pennsylvania's State System of Higher Education's Board of Governors requested a 2017–18 appropriation of $505.2 million, an increase of $61 million. In his address in February, Gov. Tom Wolf announced $8.9 million more for our 14 universities in his budget proposal.

Chancellor Frank Brogan, Bloomsburg University President David Soltz, and Logan Steigerwalt, Board of Governors nominee and Slippery Rock University student, responded to legislators' questions. In his opening remarks, Brogan said, “Change is obviously in the wind in Pennsylvania and a necessary — very necessary — part of building a future for this state.”

Later, Brogan said, “The vibrancy of our system is directly tied to the vibrancy of the Commonwealth.” He went on to describe competition in higher education and to thank Pennsylvania for increased appropriations over the past two years.

Early in the hearings, Brogan brought up the systemwide study about which he spoke in his State of the State System address in January. The review was a major topic in last year’s appropriations hearings, when Brogan referred to it as a “reorganizational and modernizational effort.”

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“This system, through its board has made a profound decision that it is now well beyond time to take a serious look at how our system of higher education is organized,” he said. “The one thing we all agree on — every president, every council member, every Board of Governors member is the following: that the system as it currently is organized is unsustainable. If the math remains similar to what it is today, we will begin somewhere along the line to see this system reorganized by itself if we don’t lift a finger first to reorganize it in the most effective way for the future.”

Brogan explained that the process has begun, with feedback expected by the summer, and he assured legislators they would be “true partners in this responsibility.” He mentioned the previous day’s Board of Governors decision to extend a line of credit to Cheyney University, contingent upon “a new institutional model that ensures it can balance its own budget in the future.” As he has said repeatedly about the systemwide study and continued to say throughout both hearings, "There's no preconception about what will come out of the pipe” and “no sacred cows,” and that everything is on the table.

senatehearing17-02eichelberger

Sen. John Eichelberger, who last year commented about faculty members’ work hours, was first to ask questions. He immediately asked, “How much more is (APSCUF’s new contract) going to cost the school each year?” and then what the average salary and range are for “these professors.” Brogan provided an average and range for full professors but did not elaborate on other ranks or adjunct pay. Eichelberger then asked about requirements for faculty work weeks. Brogan explained class time, office hours, and said the so-called Snyder report (“Instructional Output and Faculty Salary Costs of the State-Related and State-Owned Universities”) averages worktime at 55 hours per week “in terms of all responsibilities being reported.”

Eichelberger asked, “When you have the drawdown of the system to prop up some schools that are having financial issues, are we losing the competitive edge at some of the schools, where then they can’t get the latest equipment, they can’t get something that they need to move ahead and excel and keep up with technology and other things because of the drawdown of funds across the board?”

Brogan answered that none of the 14 universities is rich or has a slush fund.

senatehearing17-03dinniman

Sen. Andrew Dinniman said, “I represent a district in which West Chester University is there, so I can now go back and assure the faculty and the president of that university that it’s the position of the chancellor that no longer will money be taken from us, as you well know has been done in the past in the millions of dollars, to support other universities? Is that the position?”

Dinniman continued, “Is the fact that to rob Peter to pay Paul, to destroy the excellence of one university — which I think is what Senator Eichelberger was getting at — to help a university which is in difficulty or fading for whatever the reason may be is not an answer for the State System?”

Brogan said his and the board’s position was “the answer cannot lie in long-term financial prop-up of individual institutions by the rest of the system.” He said every university needs to have an advantage in being part of the system.

After questioning the timeline of the State System’s study and inquiring about enrollment issues, Dinniman declared, “On the Snyder reports, I’ve gotta put in a bill to get rid of ’em. They’re useless. … It came to a question of ‘How do we know faculty’s working?’ So you fill out this thing where you self-disclose what you do. And you can put down anything you want to put down because no one questions what you put down. I’ve seen people put down 80 hours, 75 hours, and so if we want accountability in terms of faculty work, let me say to my colleagues the Snyder report is not the answer. Snyder is long gone, and so should these reports because it was not the right approach to accountability.”

Dinniman asked about metrics to be used in the systemwide study. Brogan said they would include enrollment and enrollment trends, issues of cost per student, the “academic array,” supply-demand gap analysis, and diversity of student population.

“We have to also look at a forecast for the future to try to determine what can be sustainable at an institution over the long haul to assure that it’s organized in a way where it can pay its bills with the money it generates, whatever that happens to be,” Brogan said.

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Sen. David Argall asked about the study’s cost, collaboration and whether anything was off the table. Brogan reiterated, “Everything has to be on the table. If sacred cows are created along the way, they’ll stack up in the pasture to the point where nothing will happen.”

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Sen. Judith Schwank, after asking about cash flow, said, “We’ve got to have the fortitude, then, to make the changes that this study will recommend.”

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Sen. Scott Martin asked about online degree programs’ effect on online enrollment. Brogan replied that distance education has an impact on new programming.

“The whole idea of technology and its usefulness in the area of education generally speaking is to be able to tamp down redundancy and create greater efficiency, and that efficiency can be passed along to students by less cost,” Brogan said. He discussed pooling resources and the “genius of faculty.”

Martin said he hoped the study would “take a look at the amenities war that’s going on.” He then asked about how families can determine how investment in higher education will pay off. Brogan referred to the State System’s gap-analysis study.

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Sen. Lisa Baker asked if the System’s study will include the infrastructure of the State System’s office as a whole, including operational costs and construction. Brogan repeated, “We have to look at everything,” including the Office of the Chancellor.

Steigerwalt said students value the small faculty/student ratio at his campus. Baker asked him about student concerns, and he replied that students are concerned about the value of their degrees. Experiences set the State System apart, he elaborated.

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Sen. Elder Vogel Jr. asked about universities’ advertising criteria and budgets, which Brogan explained is up to individual universities.

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Sen. Gene Yaw said he’s not sure if the system’s “geographics work anymore” and asked about the guidelines for the study’s request for proposals — whether closure, consolidation, or specialization are options. Brogan replied that the study needs to “recognize that what we’re doing … in the majority of cases isn’t working the way it did 10, 15, 20, or even 30 years ago, and therefore there is an obligation to change.”

“We can change the business model in our System all day long and maybe even create a greater sustainability just in the ledger accounting of this thing for a longer period of time,” Brogan said. “But the heart and soul of what we do on these campuses occurs in classrooms and laboratories, and if we just continue to accept the way we are — and in many cases have been for a long time — and that isn’t considered in this change process at the same time, we will be only creating half a loaf.”

Yaw said he was concerned about the State System’s four-year graduation rate of less than 50 percent. Brogan pointed to the national average of about 27 percent. The State System’s six-year graduation rate also is above the national average.

“But, be that as it may, that can’t be our high-water mark,” Brogan said.

He continued: “We’ve always got to make sure that we’re trying to organize in a way that will continuously drive up not only the number of graduates but the time in which students graduate. Simple mathematics. The faster you graduate, the less you’re gonna pay."

senatehearing17-10Langerholc

Sen. Wayne Langerholc Jr. asked what the State System is doing to educate students about rising costs and debt.

“The only way to close that gap, I believe, is to continue to better educate families as to the actual cost to bear so that they can make better-informed decisions about the total cost, No. 1,” Brogan said.  “ … Also to help students acquire jobs.”

senatehearing17-11wagner

Sen. Scott Wagner asked about the breakdown of the State System’s request for $61 million, saying he was very interested in “the faculty side.”

“It’s no secret that your faculty went on strike this year,” Wagner said. “Because people are listening, would you just give us a little background of when that occurred and how many days they were out?”

Brogan replied that the three-day strike was over issues of salary, benefits, and contract language. He mentioned changes to the healthcare plan.

“We got through collective bargaining generally speaking, but both the issue of the healthcare plan was still a hanging issue but also hanging were a variety of contractual issues that we felt needed to be changed for the future of this system,” Brogan said. “But also some of those would have created greater efficiency and provided money back to the system because of the change that was met — not in every case, but there were those that fell into that category. We broke down at the end of about a year-and-a-half process, and the strike was called.”

Wagner followed with, “So, during whole this year-and-a-half of negotiations, at any time were people not paid?”

“Uh, no sir,” Brogan replied. (We’ll get to compensation during the strike in a few minutes.)

“So, paychecks continued to roll,” Wagner said. “So I find that fascinating.”

He requested every university supply a list “in ranking order of the faculty and what their salaries are ... Because I know … the famous West Chester swim coach has a base of $80,000 but he gets another over $200,000 for selling snowballs and other projects he’s working on.”

He continued to ask questions about the well-documented APSCUF strike.

“Did your agency facilitate the strike?” Wagner asked. “Did you basically say that the teachers … who? … I’m just curious. I think people need to know how this whole thing works. Who directed the teachers or the faculty to go on strike?”

Brogan explained that the State System does not call a strike — that it is a decision made by the bargaining unit — and he outlined the strike-authorization process.

Wagner asked what union (or unions) represents the faculty. Brogan answered that APSCUF represents faculty and coaches.

“So actually, that seems like a pretty powerful union on this System,” Wagner said.

Editor’s note: You are correct, Sen. Wagner.

“The process that exists that I have found since coming to Pennsylvania is a very powerful process,” Brogan replied.

“But at no time now, even when the teachers went on strike, were they compensated for the time they were off?” Wagner asked.

“No,” Brogan answered. “According to the rules of engagement, you are not compensated unless other arrangements are made later. You are not compensated for the time that you are off in a strike.”

“Actually, you just used a very interesting term: ‘rules of engagement,’” Wagner said. “That’s a war term that’s used over in the Middle East when we are engaging in war with an enemy. So, wow. That’s pretty interesting. ‘Rules of engagement’ with the university system and the teachers. I find that fascinating.”

Wagner returned to the West Chester University swim coach, referring to an article on PennLive that listed the coach as making more than $300,000. Wagner did not mention that Brogan is third on the list, with earnings of $344,245.

“How did that happen?” Wagner pressed. “I mean, you’re telling us the average salary is $85,000. I mean, I’m curious. Are there people out there listening that could apply for that job?”

Brogan explained that the coach runs camps and earns a percentage of the proceeds.

“The university gleans a substantial amount of money from that operation, and they are apparently wildly popular,” Brogan said.

Wagner asked whether the coach’s pension would be based on his base salary or total compensation. Brogan answered that it would depend on his pension plan, with which Brogan was not familiar.

“So his pension would be based on $300,000, so it would be safe to say that he would retire with $200,000 a year, which would at least be two-thirds of the $300,” Wagner said. “Wow. Do you have a hotline that people could call? This is like the deal of the century. So I just think people need to know. I mean, we have a pension crisis right now in the state of Pennsylvania, and I mean this is just, it’s just wild to me how this system works.”

senatehearing17-12Vulakovich

Sen. Randy Vulakovich asked how it was possible to improve Cheyney University's 7.9 percent four-year graduation rate and 17.5-percent six-year graduation rate. He also asked why it had not been addressed earlier. He said legislators need to know what questions will be in the RFP and that hard questions must be asked. Brogan explained that the RFP was not a finalized plan; the study could evolve once the system starts hearing from faculty, students and others.

“What do you do with a school campus if you close it?” Vulakovich asked. He used Clarion as an example. “What do you do with these campuses? Do you try to get rid of the whole campus? Or do you try to parcel it out? There needs to be a plan set for this because as long as there’s not a plan, and we know certain things we have to do, and I don’t know. I mean, maybe the decision, like I said it’s 7.9 percent and 17.5 percent and getting money from the others. The decision on Cheyney is probably already premade without the stamp until the study comes in, but there needs to be some decision about what’s gonna happen to that, and can it be put to some other value for some other educational purpose for the people that could use it there?”

Brogan replied that campuses are Commonwealth assets, so the State System cannot sell off or lease property.

“That’s the approach we’re taking as a system,” Brogan said. “Not to say, ‘We’ll just shut it down,’ Cheyney a good example. Let’s find a different approach that’s more sustainable that’s also gonna have other residual impacts as it relates to getting it there.”

senatehearing17-13street

Sen. Sharif Street stood up for Cheyney University

“Metrics and data are great to evaluate decisions,” he said. “But as all of us know, metrics and data, depending on which metrics you look at and which data, they can drive the nature of your decision. When a business decides where it’s gonna make its investment, it tends to focus on where there is the greatest market. In educational institutions, one of the factors that you mentioned earlier is that they tend to draw regionally from their population. When you look at Cheyney University, you have to look at, ‘Is there a population to draw from?’ Well, Delaware County is one of the fastest-growing counties in the nation. Montgomery County is also a growth county. Philadelphia County is a growth county. Chester County is a growth county, with respect to population and job growth. And so it would seem to me that there is an administrative failing if in an area that has a growth, a population growth, when neighboring institutions are able to grow at some of the fastest rates, when Cheyney University has not been able to grow. There are a growing number of jobs in the southeast, unlike some regions of the state, where those students are coming from, and so there should be a way to place them there. And to the extent that the PASSHE system hasn’t found a way to take an institution which is positioned in a place where there is growth in terms of the population pool it’s growing from, there’s the need for the educational services that are provided. … So the metrics would suggest, ‘Is there a need for Cheyney?’ I think the metrics would suggest that there is a need for Cheyney, but the metrics would suggest a failure on the part of the PASSHE system to appropriately utilize a resource that we have at our disposal to appropriately give us the return on that investment. ... Educating people is a net gain to the Commonwealth, unlike incarcerating people, which is a net loss. It’s just an expense. When those people leave, they are less likely to be productive citizens in society. When we educate them, they are more likely to be productive citizens in society. So we had great outcry about closing institutions which employed people in rural areas because of the need for rural population, but now we have an institution, and several institutions, which are located in rural populations, where those people would be hard-pressed to find additional jobs if we didn’t, and the product that they’re selling and the market that they’re selling in is a growth market and a product that’s needed, but yet we have not found a way to make that work. I’m being candid. The people I represent believe that Cheyney should continue to exist. The metrics that I would evaluate this would suggest that there is a market for this institution and many of these institutions to continue to exist.”

Brogan replied, “As it relates to Cheyney, it would take us more time than you have in a public meeting to talk about the number of individuals, groups and constituencies who have led Cheyney to where it is today. That is not to pass the buck because it includes PASSHE. … Do we want to figure out, as was stated yesterday, ‘Where are we going to go with Cheyney in the future?’ It wasn’t a question of closing it. It was a question of ‘How do we quickly pivot Cheyney to a sustainable institution of higher education that still makes teaching and learning the paramount import for its students, now and into the future. That’s where we’ve gotta go.”

senatehearing17-14killion

Sen. Thomas H. Killion said he is looking forward to making Cheyney, with its beautiful campus and prime location, sustainable. He asked about investment in Cheyney’s Keystone Honors Academy, and Brogan discussed its continued success. He called it “as sound an investment in the future of Cheyney that this body and the general assembly … can make. … You could argue a lot of things about success or lack of success at Cheyney. You can’t argue about the continued success of the Keystone Honors Program.”

senatehearing17-15hughes

Sen. Vince Hughes echoed the praise of Cheyney’s honors program, calling it the best-rated honors program of any historically black college or university in the nation.

He went on to describe the purpose of the State System.

“The system was created to be mutually supportive of one another,” Hughes said. “The system was created to allow these 14 institutions all across Pennsylvania who more than likely would fall on their face if not for a system … for collective work together. And this goes from West Chester to Lock Haven to Shippensburg to Indiana University of Pennsylvania to all of these entities. That’s why the system was created. They were in a problem where they were almost 30 years ago, and a system was created to mutually support them, to lift them up because they were champions for education and academic success and mobility for their communities. … So when you hear conversations of universities or the system supporting universities, this one this year, this one that year, this one another year, it is consistent with the original mission. Now I’m not making it up. It’s in the archives. It’s in the history. It’s in the original legislation. … It’s important to point out so that when institutions struggle, there is a system to lift it up. … It is designed to help those who are in distress, or maybe, better said, it is designed to complement other institutions. And make sure that we minimize duplication and that we support one another. It’s had its fits and starts. It’s had its great successes. It has its problems. It is organic, like we all are, and we all go through ups and downs. But be clear that this issue of supporting one another is what the system was designed to do. Because all these institutions were, before the system was created, were in some level of distress. OK? And then the system was created because somebody felt, and I agree, that it was the responsible thing to do to figure out a way to lift them all up because they are the only thing in Mansfield. They are the only thing in many respects in Lock Haven. In Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, that’s what you’ve got. You’ve got the university, and it’s a driving academic and financial force within that community. And it is a place where folks in that neighborhood can go and transform their lives.”

He highlighted the correlation between enrollment decreases and decreased appropriations.

“What is very clear to me is that university enrollment has declined across the board, directly tied to investments from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. … You look at the numbers for the state appropriation for ’09 and ’10, $530 million, and in fall of 2010, the system enrollment was 119,000 students. All right? ... Appropriations dropped in ’14–’15 to $412 million … and the enrollment dropped from 119,000 to 109,000. ... And there was a four-year consistent appropriation, from 2011 to 2015 of $412 million. Every year we stayed static. Now, we were at $530, Mr. Chairman. We dropped to $412 and just have begun making progress back. … We cannot separate out that issue, especially if we say that we are committed to low-income, high-quality options that the 14 State System universities provide. … When we stop investing the money, the students don’t come. When we invest the money, the students attend. So if we want to look at metrics, if we want to look at linear analysis and all of that stuff that accountants and guys look at, we cannot divorce ourselves from something that’s very basic. … We need not to ignore the original mission (during the study) … If we don’t invest in it, then it won’t be that opportunity for our children.”

Hughes then distributed copies of a New York Times article about upward mobility in which Cheyney University ranks highest among the 14 State System universities.

“(The State System) was put together for everybody, not just for a few,” Hughes concluded.

senatehearing17-16browne

Sen. Patrick Browne, chair of the appropriations committee, wrapped the hearing.

“There’s a group that doesn’t have access yet or has chosen access yet, and as Senator Hughes says, your product is the product that a lot look to, at least in terms of an affordability standpoint, and a program standpoint as well, for access,” Browne said. “So I think those opportunities are available to us and probably would be considered during your studies. Senator Hughes is also correct regarding our level of appropriation. If we approve the governor’s number, we’re appropriating about the same amount we appropriated in 1999. And that really brings into question, ‘Where are we going?’ in regards to supporting higher education as a component of our overall budget. We often talk about economic development in relation to taxes and regulations and healthcare costs, but what we hear mostly from employers now … is the No. 1 thing that’s gonna drive employment in the next 20 years, especially in high-end employment, is gonna be workforce competence — the strength of the workforce, and their skills to provide that employer with what’s necessary to bring their product and service to market. So if we have an overall strategy for our budgeting, and our appropriations are going up in corrections and human services and down in higher education … our overall strategy is going in reverse to what the economic needs need to be in Pennsylvania and our ability to attract and keep that working-age workforce that will allow for our financial picture to improve. We can go through a process year over year of looking for savings and reductions … but the thing that will be the most sustainable over time is a growing economy, and if workforce competence is the No. 1 thing that will drive that, then our budgets … should reflect that.”

* * *

With the hearings complete, our work in advocating for fair funding of our universities has just begun. APSCUF is working to make Gov. Tom Wolf's proposed $8.9 million appropriations increase — or more — stick in the 2017–18 budget.

APSCUF launched a series of graphics on social media, detailing how our 14 state-owned universities serve all Commonwealth residents and why an investment in our State System is an investment in the entire state. Please retweet and share the graphics on your social media accounts. Use the hashtag #fundPAfuture when posting about the Pennsylvania budget and the future of our universities.

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