Members of APSCUF’s nominations and elections committee open contract-ratification ballots Nov. 17 at the Association of Pennsylvania State College and Universities office in Harrisburg. Photo/Kathryn Morton
APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash, left, testifies before the Joint Committees on Education Nov. 15. His comments as prepared are below. Photo/Kathryn Morton
Testimony of Dr. Kenneth M. Mash
President, Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF)
Before the Joint Committees on Education
Joint House and Senate Education Committee Hearing
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
8 E-B East Wing
Chairmen and members of the committees,
Thank you for the opportunity to testify today on what is an extremely important issue. My name is Dr. Kenneth M. Mash, and I am the president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF). APSCUF represents about 5,500 faculty and coaches who work at Pennsylvania’s state-owned universities.
The sustainability of our State System of Higher Education is of critical importance to the future of our Commonwealth. Not only do our universities heavily contribute to our state’s economic well-being — a recent study showed that for every $1 in money allocated to the System, $11 is returned to the economy — but a well-educated citizenry is crucial for businesses and industries and is even more crucial for those businesses and industries that may wish to locate here in the future. Of course, a well-educated citizenry is also vital for Pennsylvania’s proud democratic tradition.
In that enterprise, our universities have played an extremely important role. Our universities have been and continue to be the universities for working-class Pennsylvanians. A recent study by the Keystone Research Center and Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center confirmed what many of us already understood to be true: “Because of the State System’s greater access for working families, its mobility rate — defined here as the share of all students who come from the bottom 60% of families AND then move into the top 40% of earners (total pre-tax individual earnings) as adults in their early thirties – is 22%, compared to just 14% for the top 10 elite private colleges.” (https://www.pennbpc.org/pennsylvanias-great-working-class-colleges)
Interestingly, that mobility rate is highest at some of those universities that have recently struggled (e.g., 29 percent at Cheyney University and 26 percent at Mansfield). The most disturbing element of the study was that should the 2012 cohort be propelled up to the top 40 percent at the same rate as those who attended college between 1999 and 2004, the overall mobility rate will fall 12 percent, and that is due to a drop in the number of students from bottom 60 percent families who can afford to enroll at our universities — 41 percent in 2002, and 35 percent in 2013. (http://www.pennbpc.org/sites/pennbpc.org/files/KRC_PBPC_EnginesofMobility.pdf, p. 9).
The mission of the State System is unequivocally articulated in Act 188 of 1982: “The State System of Higher Education shall be part of the Commonwealth’s system of higher education. Its purpose shall be to provide the highest quality education at the lowest possible cost.” I do not think one has to read too far into that language to infer that our universities were meant to be Pennsylvania’s working-class colleges. Our universities afford the opportunity for students to achieve the American Dream.
A good deal of money was spent on the State System’s sustainability study that was carried out by NCHEMS — money that might have been spent on student scholarships to aid those who are struggling. The State System already did a study in 2013 that was conducted by Maguire Associates. That study examined the potential impact of increased costs on enrollment at state-owned universities, and it concluded that an increase of more than $3,000 in total college costs would lead to drastic reductions in enrollment. Moreover, the effects would be felt the worst at the five most cost-sensitive universities: Cheyney University, Mansfield University, Clarion University, Edinboro University, and California University. It is not a coincidence that, years later, those five universities are the ones confronting difficulties.
The Maguire study wisely focused on total college costs. While the media and many policy-makers usually hone in on tuition, for families who decide what college to attend or whether to attend college at all, the bottom line is the most important factor. What we know about total college costs is not good. According to a recent study, tuition and fees now account for nearly three quarters (73 percent) of educational costs at State System schools compared with half that level (37 percent) in 1983–84. Further, total costs adjusted for inflation have risen faster for students because of large increases in the costs of room and board, which have increased by 76 percent (a hike of $4,567 in 2016 dollars) since 2000 compared with 51 percent ($3,351) for tuition and fees. Total college costs have risen by almost $10,000 since 2000, from about $15,000 to about $25,000 per year, and they have gone from one-fifth of median family income to more than one-third (35 percent). (https://www.pennbpc.org/students%E2%80%99-expense-rising-costs-threaten-pennsylvania-public-universities%E2%80%99-role-upward-mobility)
The bottom line is that it is impossible to discuss the System’s sustainability without discussing the State’s allocation. How issues are framed are how they get discussed. Too often we hear about the drops in enrollment (The System’s enrollment is about what it was 10 years ago.) and financial problems without discussing what has happened to funding to our System.
The reality of the matter is that even with this year’s 2 percent increase (and we do heartily thank you for that), the inflation-adjusted funding for the State System is more than 25 percent below the 2007–08 level and a third below its 2000–01 level. Further, when one looks at Gross State Product, funding for the State System today is only 42 percent of its 1983–84 level. (https://www.pennbpc.org/students%E2%80%99-expense-rising-costs-threaten-pennsylvania-public-universities%E2%80%99-role-upward-mobility)
This only tells a part of the story. One also must look at how changes to funding of Commonwealth capital projects result in debt payments that have absorbed large portions of the universities’ educational and general funds.
Simply put, our universities have struggled because the Commonwealth has chosen to not fund public higher education at a rate that is sustainable. Pennsylvania ranks 47th out of the 50 states in per-student funding.
Responding to the cuts during the Great Recession, our universities sought to survive by raising tuition and fees and increasing enrollment. However, that response was limited because the bubble in the number of high school graduates was soon to burst. The increases in college costs have meant that students and their families have had to confront increasing debt or the choice to not go to college at all.
Increasing student debt does not serve anyone. While there is a reasonable argument to be made that students should be invested in their own education, those arguments ought to be modified by the realization that our economy is hurt when graduates are not making purchases or otherwise putting money into the economy, but are rather paying principal and interest to the banks. Further, it ignores the plain fact that public higher education is a public good that reaps benefits not just to the individual graduate, but also to the Commonwealth overall.
This is a real problem that reinforces the difficulties of families, particularly in struggling communities. The KRC/PBPC study found that the Commonwealth ranks 40th for the share of adults ages 25–64 with more than a high school degree. In more than half of Pennsylvania counties (35), this share is lower than any of the 50 states (i.e., lower than West Virginia’s 48.1 percent). (https://www.pennbpc.org/pennsylvania-higher-education-crossroads-boost-opportunity-and-growth-pennsylvania-needs-invest-high)
This pattern is likely to continue because of the low percentage of high school students who are seriously contemplating college — that is, the number of students and families who actually fill out FAFSA forms. The contrast between Pennsylvania at its northern tier and the southern tier of New York is particularly stark. New York’s counties show 5 to 25 percent more students filling out the forms. (https://www.pennbpc.org/pennsylvania-higher-education-crossroads-boost-opportunity-and-growth-pennsylvania-needs-invest-high) Since these numbers came before New York enacted its free-tuition plan, we might expect that this differential will increase.
Unless we are willing to concede that Pennsylvanians are less motivated or less intelligent than their northern neighbors — and we certainly are not — we must understand that something else is going on here, and I believe that affordability is the answer.
I say all of this not to take away from the fact that there are certainly things that should change at our universities. I do think that the current administration and Board are increasingly sensitive to costs at our universities. I am hopeful that the wave of universities that were “experimenting” with per-credit tuition (which could lead to 25–50 percent higher tuition rates) may be coming to an end. We were encouraged to see the Board respond to the university presidents who asked for permission to lower tuition for financially strapped students.
We see opportunities at some of our universities to engage in career technology, and even to be locations for dual enrollment where there are not career technical centers (CTCs). We think our universities, particularly in the northern tier, need to do more to assist students in filling out the financial-aid forms, regardless of what university a student may attend. We further believe that some of our universities should offer general associate degrees so that students who are forced to leave due to finances, military commitments, or other causes can leave with something in their hands.
We believe there ought to be more sophisticated assistance emanating from the System to our universities with regard to marketing and tuition models. We believe there must be adjustments made to how the universities approach student housing, and that there ought to be a greater focus on cost as opposed to suites. We believe that the Board of Governors ought to be more proactive in instances where it is clear that a university is headed down a path of poor administration and improper planning.
However, our System cannot be sustainable without a real commitment from the Commonwealth. Our universities are the public universities in Pennsylvania. We must continue to make good on the promise of affordable, high-quality higher education. Pennsylvania cannot afford to be in a position of denying the American Dream to a generation.
APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash, center, leads a special legislative assembly conference call Nov. 2. Delegates voted to recommend the tentative agreement move forward to membership for ratification Photo/Kathryn Morton
Faculty members at state-owned universities will vote Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 13–15, on whether to ratify a tentative contract agreement reached in October. Click here to read today’s press release.
Voting times and locations will vary by campus. Check with your chapter office for details. Only full members can vote. Not a full member or know someone who needs to join APSCUF? Click here for details or visit your chapter office.
Full members may view the tentative agreement on the State APSCUF website by clicking here. You must be a registered user and be logged into the site to view the page. If you have not logged into the APSCUF website in more than a year (since we switched to the new site), you may need to create a new account. After registering, your account may not be activated for about 24 hours, while we verify your APSCUF membership. Thank you for your patience.
Campus Equity Week is about acknowledging the great nationwide divide that exists between higher-education faculties. The reality is what Marc Bousquet notes in “How the University Works”: “In thirty years of managed higher education, the typical faculty member has become a female nontenurable part-timer earning a few thousand dollars a year without health benefits.” What’s more, Campus Equity Week is an opportunity for us all to advocate, to agitate, to act.
Action is where many of my fellow tenure-line faculty and I have sometimes fallen short. We sympathize with our temporary colleagues when we see so many of them pooled in one office, perhaps sharing a single computer. We shake our heads in disapproval when an administration delays approval for hire or renewal, giving adjuncts little time to prepare for classes. We wonder at those in our department who have worked alongside us for 10 years without a single step-raise. We feel bad, but we too often also feel powerless to effect any lasting change.
That has not always been so. In my 11 years at Kutztown, I’ve seen APSCUF and our faculty stand up twice to face State System proposals that would significantly hurt our temporary colleagues. During the 2016 strike, APSCUF members rejected a temporary faculty workload increase without an increase in pay. During the previous round of contract negotiations, many tenure-line and contingent faculty successfully protested a similarly ugly scheme. In those times of crisis, we stood up together. I was never so proud to be a part of this community.
That’s why I’m addressing this post to my fellow tenure-line faculty. We’ve done well, and I know we can do better. In between crises, many of us allow the working conditions and treatment of temporary faculty to become background noise, someone else’s issue, something for “the union” to deal with — forgetting that we are the union. The fight for campus equity belongs to all of us, all the time.
The first chapter of Bousquet’s book is titled “Your Problem is My Problem,” yet he concludes that tenure-line faculty have not developed “anything that resembles an oppositional culture” in the face of austerity and the adjunctification of higher education. Nine years after his book’s publication, I have more optimism than he, in part because I’ve seen so many tenure-line faculty step up in the Pennsylvania system. At the same time, I’d like to see us be more proactive in our fight for equity, not just reactive to harmful, neoliberal contract proposals. We might make additional demands regarding contingent faculty in negotiations and to our administrations: for step increases, longer-term contracts, and more equitable professional-development support. State and chapter APSCUF leadership needs to see the support of faculty — all faculty — behind them. It requires that tenured profs recognize that their problem is our problem, that their fight is our fight.
Consider the long-term effects that increased adjunctification can have on departmental culture and health, on students’ access to professors, on shared governance. As the number of tenure-line faculty shrink, so does the number of us in protected positions from which to advocate for fair labor practices. Fewer of us can tackle the ever-expanding service components of the job. We become what Nancy Welch calls “angels in the architecture” of higher ed, forced to do more and more with less and less. If we protect tenured privileges while allowing the number of adjuncts to grow and their conditions to worsen, we allow the university to decline through attrition.
Campus Equity Week reminds us that we are indeed empowered to act. We can effect change in our immediate environments, between contract negotiations. We can ask the temporary faculty in our department what professional concerns they have and really listen. We can acknowledge the professional and disciplinary insights that they bring to our classrooms, committees, and campus communities — and follow up by insisting that our departments reflect this in their practices and policies. We can advocate that departmental and campus professional-development funds be extended to adjuncts or increased to reflect the high costs of conferences and workshops. We can insist that our chairs consider the scheduling needs of and number of preps allotted to temporary faculty with the same respect given to tenure-line faculty. Equity is gained not just in strikes, but in the small challenges we choose to face every day.
We’ve done well. Now let’s do better.
Amy Lynch-Biniek is an associate professor of composition and rhetoric at Kutztown University. A former adjunct, she is chair of the statewide adjunct committee of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.
Campus Equity Week is a national movement dedicated to promoting fairness to faculty and raising awareness of the situation that adjunct faculty face nationally. CEW begins today with a day of action planned for Tuesday, Oct. 31, and APSCUF is bringing the movement to our campuses.
Adjunct faculty members nationwide are not paid a livable wage and worry about job security, which can have a negative impact on the quality of higher education, according to research by The Delphi Project and the Center for the Future of Higher Education. CEW is helping to raise awareness for APSCUF’s adjunct faculty, as well as the more than 800,000 adjunct faculty nationwide that these issues affect.
Locally, Kutztown University APSCUF has events planned for Monday, Oct. 30, to help advocate for fairness to faculty. Stop by MSU 250, the Presidents’ Room, to pick up a “Fairness for Adjuncts” button, get more information from displays and documentaries, and join discussions to learn how to advocate for fairness on campus.
West Chester University APSCUF is hosting an adjunct Halloween event 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31, at Sykes Union Room 255. Come for snacks, beverages, and opportunities to meet with fellow adjuncts and APSCUF members. Discuss issues that are important to you so APSCUF can make sure your voice is heard.
At Lock Haven University last week, APSCUF showed “Con Job: Stories of Adjunct and Contingent Labor,” followed by a panel discussion. The award-winning short documentary features Seth Kahn, West Chester University professor.
This week APSCUF welcomes Sean Crampsie, our new government-relations director, to the State APSCUF office.
I am pleased to join APSCUF after nearly four years with the Pennsylvania School Boards Association working in government affairs. During my time at PSBA, I promoted a pro-public education agenda in Harrisburg on behalf of the 4,500 locally elected school directors.
I am a proud graduate of Bloomsburg University, where I earned a bachelor of arts in political science. After college, I went from volunteering on political campaigns to political field director for a Lehigh Valley congressional campaign that drew national attention.
I was elected to Carlisle Borough Council in 2015 and took office in January 2016. I live in Carlisle with my wife, Brittany.
I look forward to working with all of you in the future, and we will keep you updated on important legislative issues in Harrisburg.
APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash’s comments as prepared:
Chairwoman Shapira, Chancellor Whitney, governors, and presidents,
On behalf of my faculty colleagues in APSCUF, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, I want to thank you for engaging in a smooth process that resulted in the one-year contract.
We appreciate the leadership of the chancellor and the board in this regard, and we are glad that our faculty members can, for at least one more year, concentrate without a major distraction their attention on the students and on making our universities the best institutions they can be.
We are also glad that we can focus our organizational efforts on support for our institutions.
Our students are far better off when we cooperate than when we are in battle. We further appreciate what Chancellor Whitney has been saying on our campuses about working together and seriously listening to concerns.
We hope that this is the dawn of a new day where the Office of the Chancellor models behavior that is expected on all of our campuses.
We do have campuses that are led by presidents who truly listen, who demonstrate in word and deed their respect for their faculty colleagues and all of those who work at their universities.
Our hope is that within the System that they are held up as examples of how academic institutions ought to be led.
Not that there is never disagreement, not that there are not hard choices to be made with which we will strongly disagree, but that decisions are duly informed and can be rationally explained to campus constituencies.
Bosses that solely rely on the power of their office rarely find success in any enterprise; with academic leadership, it is a recipe for disaster.
For our System to thrive, we need to stop some of the pettiness that occurs on our campuses. The campus climate ought to be an important factor in weighing the job performance of the campus leadership, and there need to be outlets within the System that faculty, coaches, students, and all employees can turn to and know that their campus concerns are taken seriously.
We would hope that when a campus leader is consistently acrid in word and deed with respect to those who are responsible for carrying out the very mission of the State System that this would be a serious matter of concern for the leadership of the System.
We need to find a better equilibrium, particularly in the world of academic affairs, but also in the world of budgeting and administration. We believe that the State System ought to model that behavior, and that it should be insisted upon for our campuses. The sense we get is that the System is moving in that direction, and we would like you to know that we appreciate it.
There is a far greater role for true input into the operations of our System, and I look forward to having the opportunity to articulate our perspectives in direct conversation with the System’s leadership.
We are fully aware of the challenges that face the System, and we look forward to confronting those challenges together in the most constructive ways possible.
Thank you very much for your attention.
It warrants an exclamation point: The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties and Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education have tentatively agreed to a new contract that would run through June 30, 2019. Click here to read today’s joint release.
On-campus voting dates have not yet been set, and only full APSCUF members may vote on the tentative agreement. Prior to voting, full members will have an opportunity to view the tentative agreement in a secure, members-only area of the APSCUF website. Click here to learn how to become a member. If you’re already a member but not registered to view members-only areas of this website, click here to register.
Last summer, APSCUF went behind the scenes to show how faculty members and coaches continue to devote themselves to affordable, quality education even when class is not in session. This post is a continuation of that series.
Dr. Lia Paradis has taken on the role of educating future generations, but her work doesn’t stop at the classroom door.
“We’re not just educating students: We’re making sure we create the next generation of educated and trained people who will make sure society runs well,” she said.
In addition to serving as a professor at Slippery Rock University, she also chairs the history department and helps run the Stone House Center for Public Humanities. The CPH helps spread the humanities to students, faculty, and community members through means other than classrooms.
“We run a variety of programming in the community with community partners, local high schools … We have instituted a free library in the town of Slippery Rock,” Paradis said. “We also aid other faculty in their search for the right types of grants to write for their own programs and give students the opportunities to do service learning.”
With a limited number of hours in the day, Paradis often takes her work home with her. Upon review, Paradis found that her weekdays consist of 11 hours of work, several of which she logs before she leaves for work, she said.
Weekends don’t always mean a day of rest and relaxation, Paradis explained.
“Usually on the weekends, I go crazy and sleep in until 7 a.m.!” she said. “Then I make sure to put in at least three hours each day.”
That adds up to a grand total of 61 hours, on average, per week. And while the arrival of summer brings a break for many students, professors don’t completely check out, she said.
“Well, as the chair of my department, I’m expected to be available in the summer,” she said. “I have also taken students on study-abroad trips. Summer is really the time where you get to do the things you need to do to best serve you students.”
Whether it means prepping courses from the upcoming semesters or conducting research to update information on topics they cover, professors never stop working to improve the educational process, Paradis said.
“The notion that professors only work during the semester for the time that they’re in the classroom is extremely problematic,” she said. “People don’t think that a soldier is only a soldier when he or she is actually in a battle situation, or that a surgeon is only being a surgeon for the hours that they’re in the operating room. Yet with professors, there is a misconception that we’re only professors when we’re in the classroom.
“We’re not just educating that child so that only he or she can benefit; everybody that we’re educating is going to be the next generation that teaches the children, that cares for the children, that builds the bridges, that takes care of our environment … We’re not just teaching that student. We’re teaching the next generation.”
—Brendan Leahy, APSCUF intern
Photo courtesy of Lia Paradis.