Says investment in quality public higher education is necessary to bring Pennsylvania back to the future


March 12, 2012

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HARRISBURG – Governor Corbett’s higher education task force, chaired by former Senator Rob Wondering, met for the first time today in Harrisburg to discuss its goals and priorities. Dr. Steve Hicks, president of APSCUF, the association representing over 6,000 faculty and coaches at the 14 state-owned universities, expressed concern about the governor’s priorities.

“This morning the governor made his intentions clear: his vision for the future of postsecondary education in Pennsylvania is narrowly focused on technical experience, distance learning, and job training,” President Hicks stated. “He claims that this focus will bring Pennsylvania ‘back to the future.’ Unfortunately, his short-sighted policy for higher education will ultimately hurt quality and not create the educated citizenry necessary to
bring the Commonwealth back to the future.”

The 30-member commission is comprised largely of business leaders and college administrators. Today they had the opportunity to discuss their goals for the task force.

“I am deeply disappointed that much of the conversation reflected an outcome-based, consumer-driven model of higher education. The panel includes just one faculty member and one student; there is limited representation for the stakeholders who actually provide and receive higher education and zero representation for those who do so at public universities.”

The commission is charged with establishing of a policy framework for higher education that ensures accessibility, affordability, and employability for users.

“The task force has ambitious goals, but they cannot be accomplished without proper state investment in higher education,” Hicks said. “It is axiomatic to think that the state can cut funding for higher education and expect colleges and universities to remain accessible and affordable to students of the Commonwealth.”

Governor Corbett has proposed cutting state funding for the State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) by 20 percent, or $82.5 million. His proposed reductions for all sectors of higher education total $265.4 million.

“The budget cuts, coupled with the Governor’s comments that the task force should look into massive open online courses and focus on job training, indicate his disinterest in creating an educated workforce and bringing high-paying jobs to the state,” Hicks stated. “Thomas Jefferson is often quoted as saying that ‘an educated citizenry is a vital requisite for our survival as a free people.’ Pennsylvania must maintain a quality higher education system in order to be an economic and intellectual leader in the global economy.”

“Our future will be shaped by those who can be innovative, think critically and problem solve effectively – skills developed through higher learning. Training prepares a person for one job, but the average worker now changes careers three times in his or her life. Instead of training people for jobs, we must foster the creative entrepreneurial spirit that comes from higher education,” Hicks noted. “I hope to have the opportunity to meet with the commission so that we can have an open dialog about the best policies for maintaining accessible, affordable, high-quality public higher education in Pennsylvania.”

The commission is scheduled to hold meetings across the state during the months of May and June. The advisory panel must issue a report by November 15, 2012.