At the January 23rd State System Board of Governors meeting, APSCUF president Steve Hicks addressed the board with the following comments about student recruitment concerns.
I want to speak to you about a common concern: student recruitment.
Let me start with a general concern: reading the newspaper accounts the last few months does not lay a positive image for those students looking for a university in the fall.
First, there’s been the spectacle of staff layoffs. The faculty numbers are thankfully down from the high water announcements, yet we still have 25 permanent faculty being laid off and untold numbers — maybe over 100 — of temporaries. At a time when Shepherd University puts a sign in Shippensburg about visiting them, we shouldn’t be acting like we have fewer seats and fewer programs to attract students.
And the argument about “shrinking the faculty” or shrinking the university belies the numbers. At Edinboro in 1999, they had more students than they do now by 200, yet then they had 28 MORE faculty. And that’s before the layoffs next year.
Second, yesterday and today you are talking about tuition programs. Let me say, the out-of-state idea seems appropriate and an answer to the Shepherds and Youngstowns who openly reach out to PA high school students who used to be expected to come to PASSHE schools.
But the differential tuition question is another matter. Let me just say up front: we hope you tread carefully.
As you know, in the past 5 years, the state appropriation has been reduced to the 1997 level, while student tuition has grown in the last 5 years by 19 percent (according to your website). It is sometimes difficult to connect the words of Act 188 that say we are to provide a quality affordable education as tuition goes up so much and the state’s percentage shrinks.
What you probably also know is that our students average about $26,000 in accrued debt upon graduation, which is actually below the national average. However, we are supposed to be the AFFORDABLE option; note, many advisors say to only incur debt equal to your first year’s pay. Imagine $26,000 of debt when you go to work as one of our graduates in a whole number of fields, including one of our core ones, secondary school teaching.
To attract students, we — you, the Board in charge — have to make sure that a PASSHE education isn’t out of the reach of our core constituency — the working class, first generation (or even second) college student. Increasing tuition by majors has appeal; no one knows much better than I do, as APSCUF does, that numerous schools could use an injection of income in these post-Great Recession, post-Gubernatorial appropriation cut, low high school graduation rate times.
But, again, let’s be very, very careful about what we are saying to the students we are trying to attract: we want to make sure they know we have the programs, the seats, and the affordability to match and beat our growing numbers of competitors.