PASSHE Board of Governors
Remarks of Kenneth M. Mash, Ph.D.
October 9, 2014
Chairman Piccinni, Governors, Chancellor Brogan, University Presidents,
Based on yesterday’s actions, it appears that the Board will be requesting an additional funding from the Commonwealth. Your faculty and coaches appreciate the fact that the Board will be asking for additional funds. The spirit of that request is, indeed, a step in a positive direction. However, it is not enough. Our universities need restoration.
The time has come to be honest about what is occurring at our universities and to our students. According to Act 188, the very purpose of the system is “to provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost.” Members of this Board have taken both ends of that charge very seriously. But we are in danger of failing, if we are not already in places, on both ends of that charge.
Even during the previous administration, when budgets were stretched, members of the Board held fast to the idea that tuition increases should remain at a minimum. Since the $90 million cut in 2011, there have been tuition increases, but they have not kept pace with the costs of running our universities. Regardless, our students have had to take on an increasing share of the burden of paying for their educations at a public university in terms of increases in tuition and fees.
According to the Project on Student Debt, the average State System student leaves their university with $27,000 of debt. They will feel the effects of that debt for their entire lives. That debt will continue to have ripple effects throughout Commonwealth, and it will continue to do damage to our overall economy. For the sake of our students, we need restoration.
Meanwhile our universities continue to feel the pain of the 2011 cuts and the subsequent flat funding. Real questions have to be raised about whether we can meet our charge to provide a “high quality education:
• When we have a university that plans to not offer any introductory courses in music
• When we have a university that plans to not offer any sociology courses
• When we have a university that struggles to offer enough sections of English composition to their students
• When we have a university limiting student access to introductory courses in STEM fields
• When the programs that this Board approved to put into moratorium are filled with foreign language programs when we should be preparing our students for a globalized economy
• When universities are slashing their student support services aimed at helping students succeed
• When universities have delayed basic required maintenance to their buildings and grounds
Unfortunately, that list can go on much further. For the sake of high quality education, we need restoration.
I encourage you, members of the Board to visit our campuses to venture past the guided tour and speak to our students, faculty, and coaches, and hear for yourselves what has been going on.
Forty two of the 50 states have already moved to restore cuts made during the Great Recession. Pennsylvania is not one of them. Our Commonwealth ranks 48 out of 50 states when it comes to per capita funding for public higher education. That hurts our students; it hurts our Commonwealth. Every study that has been done shows that every dollar invested in public higher education returns multiple times that dollar back into the state’s economy. Our Commonwealth needs restoration.
Our universities do not suffer from expenditure problems. They are lean to the bone. Our universities continue to suffer from revenue problems.
Our system needs to be honest and bold. We need to restore our universities so that we may live up to the charge of Act 188. Our universities need restoration of the $90 million dollar cut of 2011. Further, we should request whatever additional funds on top of that that would enable a guarantee of no tuition increase for the next year. Our students need restoration.
I hope that some voice will be given to these realities as you proceed in your discussions about the System’s budget request.
I thank you for your attention.
After the incredible success of last week’s APSCUF Voter Registration drives across the campuses (where hundreds of student registered to vote), a month of civic engagement continues with the PA AFL-CIO’s Get Out the Vote (GOTV) tour.
In the coming weeks, the AFL-CIO bus—loaded up with speakers, food & drink, a grill, and non-partisan information about the political issues facing today’s students—will be stopping at each of our 14 PASSHE universities. Students can stop by for free burgers, hot dogs and snacks, along with some information on how vital their votes will be in the upcoming election.
The tour began last week with stops at East Stroudsburg University and Bloomsburg University, where APSCUF and AFL-CIO staff were on hand to help students register to vote. Monday’s event at Millersville focused on spreading awareness about the issues: budget cuts, the student debt crisis, and other matters that many students are facing today.
Over a hundred individuals of various political affiliations turned out to enjoy the free food and chat with staff members about their interests and their role in the democratic process. Each student left with a full stomach and flyers containing voter info, information on the issues, and a reminder of the November 4th election date.
Running from 4 – 7pm, #BurgersandBallots closed out its night with a few short speeches.
First to speak was Millersville student Kaytee Moyer. Moyer discussed the important role students and young people can play in an election, citing student voter turnout as a key to President Barack Obama’s victory in the 2008 election. She urged her peers to make use of that power: “It’s time for students to activate and be heard.”
Recent Millersville graduate and student activist Rizzo Mertz focused his speech on one key word: rise. He spoke on the proven ability of Americans to unite for common goals and rise up.
“We must rise,” Mertz said, calling on not only students, but those of all demographics. “When you choose to be silent at the ballot box, your voice becomes a whisper.”
The final student speaker was Doug Waterman, President of the College Democrats at Millersville. Waterman faced the issues head-on, citing recent cuts and changes at nearby universities and demanding a change.
“You have tuition increases,” Waterman said. “You have faculty getting cut, you have majors getting cut. It’s time that we elect someone who is best for us.”
Following the student speeches, Zach Hause and Mike Maguire addressed the crowd. They both focused on opportunity and freedom, two ideals that are compromised when students do not have their needs met. Maguire stated that recent cuts have limited the choices and opportunities of today’s college graduates, then rallied the crowd one last time before inviting everyone to enjoy another burger.
#BurgersandBallots proved to be a smash success at Millersville University, and the tour is only picking up steam from here. The bus stops today at Mansfield University, 1 – 3pm on Clinton Street, South Laurel Hall. APSCUF and the AFL-CIO thank everyone who stopped by, got involved, or helped out with yesterday’s event, and we hope to see just as many faces at Mansfield and the remaining nine universities.
Earlier today, Mansfield University, part of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), announced planned faculty layoffs. APSCUF President, Dr. Kenneth M. Mash, is issuing the following response:
“Today is a sad day for public higher education. Under the guise of ‘aligning programs for a strategic vision’ and ‘workforce needs,’ President Fran Hendricks announced yet another round of faculty retrenchment at Mansfield University; it is a maneuver that the university has used three times in as many years. Despite the verbiage of working on behalf of students, these proposed cuts and layoffs will be detrimental. Mansfield students and all of our students deserve more than politicking and wordsmithing; they deserve a high quality education.
“This is not about ‘a strategic vision for Mansfield;’ it is a symptom of Governor Corbett’s $90 million cut to the PASSHE appropriation in 2011-12. All of the schools undergoing retrenchment now are the same schools that claimed financial hardship last year.
“It is disturbing to hear the Orwellian language used by PASSHE officials as they construct catchy phrases to mask stark financial realities. It is nothing short of doublespeak to say you want to prepare students for future employment and then rob them of the types of courses that provide the skills that business leaders consistently say they desire in employees.
“Alumni returning to Mansfield would barely recognize the place that they once called home. While some of the buildings remain the same – with the exception of shiny new dormitories – the academic core has undergone radical change. It has impacted every classroom experience and every aspect of student life. Mansfield students and faculty members have suffered enough through the last two rounds of retrenchment. The solution is clear: a restoration of the $90 million cut would enable Mansfield and universities facing similar financial situations to think strategically about moving forward.
“A university does not get better by hurting its current and future students; doing so only creates a downward spiral. No university has ever increased enrollment by announcing to prospective students that their desired majors might soon disappear. Rather than creating new buzzwords and rationalizations for the irrational, PASSHE and university officials must be true advocates for public higher education.
“APSCUF stands ready to work with Mansfield University, PASSHE, and other universities across the system to avoid this hardship and pain for the sake of the students that we are here to serve.”
West Chester University’s head women’s basketball coach Deirdre Kane stepped down last month. In her tenure at WCU, Kane has a record of 428-302 and is the winningest coach in the program’s history. Additionally, she helped negotiate the first union contract for all coaches, an accomplishment that she considers to be one of her greatest victories.
While the coach is currently reacquainting herself with her kitchen, she looks back at her “amazing journey.”
Kane might have been shooting hoops since she was in the second grade, but she never thought her career would land her on the court. Originally, Kane dreamt of being a veterinarian. A rejection letter from veterinary school and a job offer to coach at a Catholic high school marked the beginning of Kane’s career.
After stepping foot onto a few university campuses including Salisbury University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Swarthmore College, Kane decided to choose a division 2 school for a more permanent position.
“Choosing West Chester was a no brainer,” she said. “It was much more family-oriented. “
Confronting a field that is dominated by males is not something you want to do alone. The coach’s family ended up being the team’s biggest fans. Her son and husband never missed a game. “They not only supported it, they lived it with me,” she said.
Off the court, Kane leaves West Chester University having established a lasting legacy as a leader in the movement to advance women’s athletics and in the ongoing fight for the fair treatment of her coach colleagues.
Hard work is valued over everything else. That is something that Keith White learned a long time ago.
White is currently Kutztown University’s Track and Field Coach, and he has just started his term as APSCUF’s first Coach Executive Leader. In this position he will also be the first coach to serve on State APSCUF’s Executive Council.
On the council, White will be the voice of the coaches at the 14 universities. He plans on listening and learning from “the top level leadership in the union.”
He might be new to his position and the Executive Council, but White is no stranger to the State System. When he was eighteen, all he wanted was to get out of the steel mills in his hometown Lebanon, PA. When White got accepted into Millersville University, he packed his bags and headed for college. Four years later, White became the first member of his family with a college degree.
The coach did not have to travel far from the graduation stage; he started his career in the Track and Field Department at Millersville. After several successful years at Millersville, White decided to stay within the PASSHE system and took a job at Kutztown.
While the coach thinks he made the right decision to stay within the PASSHE system, he worries about the present-day cost of higher education.
“With higher education costs sky rocketing, I hope we do not lose our way,” he said.
White believes coaches play a vital role in recruiting and attracting students to all 14 universities. He says a coach’s job is much more than what you see on the field.
“Coaches give students guidance, mentoring, and structure,” White said.
Coaches play an instrumental role in the life of collegiate athletes. It is for that reason that White spends his summers recruiting, fundraising, and trying to get a head start to the next season.
Regardless of what he is doing, White simply loves being a coach.
“The coaching life is an amazing profession, and it enriches my life daily — I could not be any luckier,” he said.
By Dr. Steve Hicks, Past President of APSCUF and Lock Haven University Faculty Member
I don’t know about you, but I get tired of hearing politicians, board members, and university administrators toss around the buzzwords like “workforce planning” and “program realignment” in what they claim is a need to “reform” higher education.
Rarely do you hear anyone elucidate the meaning of these buzzwords.
In fact, program realignment was the central point of Chancellor Brogan’s missive to “everyone” on July 30th – right before the collective bargaining agreement’s deadline for the initial retrenchment letter.
It was on our local Meet & Discuss agenda at Lock Haven University that week (“workforce planning”).
What does it mean? How can the fourteen state system universities realign and reform to get -- what?
I have heard this twaddle for years. Some of the gall was hearing it at Governor Corbett’s post-secondary education commission hearings two summers ago – they changed the name from “higher education commission” when they realized they weren’t talking about higher ed – as at multiple hearings testifiers stood and decried the Commonwealth’s lack of welders!
[A note on welders: according to a source I’ll repeatedly use, the PA Labor & Industry Department High Priority Occupation List, we need all of 528 more welders, cutters, solderers and brazers in the Commonwealth per year.]
Here’s what the Labor & Industry list tells us: there are 27 occupations designated as needing a Bachelor’s degree or more on the list of 106. How many jobs per year? 10,853. PASSHE graduates more than double that every year, as do the state-relateds (Pitt, Penn St, Temple); that number is non-sustaining. What are we reshaping for?
The most needed bachelor’s degree occupation? 1,668 accountants and auditors. We already do that.
Second? Marketing research analysts (889). We already do that.
Third? Computer system analysts. We do that. Maybe not everywhere and in the numbers we need (though there are only 670 jobs per year in PA in this) but it’s not something we need to reform to do.
So, what are we realigning to or for?
This question is even more perplexing when you look at studies about what employers want. Like this one from the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AACU) from 2013. Like many other such studies, it turns out executives hiring care more about the generic skills learned at a university, critical thinking, computation, written and oral communication, problem solving, than a specific major. The much maligned philosophy major, or French major, shockingly! has what they want. Much reinforced by quality general education (core curriculum) courses and by multiple years of reinforcement in multiple disciplines and multiple courses.
I ask again: what is it we are missing and what are we supposed to “align” with?
Administrators keep saying things like “we need to match the faculty with our student demand.” They talk about investing in the “high demand programs.”
But universities respond to “high demand” – or anything else – slowly. This year’s “high demand” is tomorrow’s “out of demand” – remember when journalists were in demand (post-Watergate)? Remember when school teachers were in high demand (state budget cuts have killed that)? Instead, universities, as PASSHE schools do, should educate students broadly so they can supply those “soft skills” no matter what the major and adapt from job to job as their lives, our economy, and their goals change – they all will change careers three times. Worrying about nailing that first job seems short-sighted, which is one thing universities aren’t supposed to be.
I won’t speak here as to why all these “leaders” think higher education needs to reform, but I will say this clearly and soundly: it’s a misguided attempt to get four-year universities to do what they aren’t supposed to (welding?!?!?) and to forget our core aptitude: no matter the major, teaching students to think critically, communicate well, and solve the problems of any prospective employer. Literally tens of thousands of jobs need those skills and those graduates – we need to keep “forming” students like that and the Commonwealth will be in fine shape.
Instead of program realignment and workforce planning, let’s have some innovative thoughts about how to get more high school graduates into to college, to keep them in college (we need to spend money so high risk 18-year-olds have a real chance of succeeding on campus), and how to mitigate the ever-increasing cost of public higher ed – even as we received flat funding from the state for the third straight year (after the 18% cut in 2011), students are asked to pay 3% more tuition and 15% more in tech fees, when they already average almost a welder’s annual wage in debt when they graduate. THIS is what politicians, administrators and board members should be focused on: more accessibility, not on the next “hot” (a relative term) program. The market will take care of that, thank you.