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On November 13, the Governor’s Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education approved and released its final report and recommendations to create a multi-year framework for higher education in the Commonwealth.

APSCUF commends the Commission on many of the 19 recommendations, including creating a minimum acceptable baseline of funding for higher education ($1.67 billion), addressing gaps in access for veterans, and urging the Commonwealth to use PHEAA earnings to supplement grant programs. However, we are also closely following the recommendations that have the potential to lead to harmful policies if they are not developed and implemented with input from State System faculty and other higher education stakeholders.

One of the Commission’s recommendations is to establish a broad-based performance funding system for all of postsecondary education. Any additional funding on top of the minimum baseline of public support would be awarded to institutions across all sectors based on “performance scorecards” that are unique to each sector’s mission. Performance evaluation areas would include increasing responsiveness to workforce needs, decreasing the amount of time for degree completion, and contributing to economic development.   The recommendation includes an important caveat that one of the targets of performance funding should be to ensure “the health and vitality of our public institutions.” We hope any resulting policy or performance funding model follows the Commission’s lead in recognizing the benefit of a healthy, adequately funded State System and does not divert resources away from Pennsylvania’s most affordable four-year college option.

Other recommendations that may cause concern include public tax credit incentives for STEM education programs, the expansion of articulation and competency-based testing in place of classroom credits, and the scope of distance education in the postsecondary system. As they say, “the devil is in the details,” and APSCUF will closely track specific policy proposals related to the Commission’s recommendations.  

APSCUF would like to thank Chairman Rob Wonderling for the Commission’s open and transparent process. The Commission met with APSCUF and other public higher education stakeholders, had Vice President Ken Mash as a public testifier, and solicited our feedback on major postsecondary issues. We hope the Governor’s administration exercises this same transparency as the recommendations are transformed into policy.