April 25, 2018
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Kathryn Morton, or 717-236-7486

A state-commissioned study released today offered five possibilities for Pennsylvania’s 14 state-owned universities, including merging or consolidating institutions. The Commonwealth’s Legislative Budget and Finance Committee commissioned the Rand Corporation’s report on Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education after the System completed a separate study last summer.

Dr. Kenneth M. Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, issued the following statement about the Rand study:

Pennsylvania ranks 47th out of 50 states in per-capita funding for public higher education. U.S. News ranked Pennsylvania 50th among the states for higher education. That low ranking was due to both the cost of higher education and the debt burden placed on students. Pennsylvania is 40th among the states for the number of adults with college degrees, and more than half of Pennsylvania’s counties are below the state ranked 50th.

The rising total cost for students attending State System universities has a direct impact on enrollment. The System did a study in 2013 that predicted enrollment would go down as costs go up. There is a crisis in public higher education in this Commonwealth, and one does not have to pay $250,000 for a study to see it. But the Commonwealth did pay that amount, and Rand made no recommendation to address this reality.

Instead, Rand makes several recommendations that it admits may drive up costs for students. Most of our universities that are struggling are located in some of the poorest areas of the Commonwealth. How does it improve the lives of those who live there to close out opportunities for students to achieve the American Dream? If the Commonwealth takes one of Rand’s suggestions, fewer students would be able to afford college, and even those who could would have their opportunities severely reduced.

This study was flawed from the start. Those pushing for it used loaded language about “struggling universities” in their proposal request. By using interviews where Rand gathered opinions about the System, it treats those opinions as fact. One does not expect this type of confusion from an institute with Rand’s reputation. For example, people stated what they thought about the costs of contracts, but there was no indication that Rand actually studied the costs of the contracts. In another instance, there is a claim of political influence in 2016, but there is no research to see if the claim is accurate.

Rand makes recommendations, but from where does it derive these recommendations? There are no comparisons to what other states may have done. There is no sourcing to any research. It appears these recommendations are made solely to placate those who wanted the study.

From the start, it has been clear that those pushing for this study have no love for public higher education. They seem to have no concern for the lack of funding for public higher education. Instead, they seem intent on bashing unions without facts — even if this means hurting the working people of this Commonwealth. This generation deserves the same opportunities afforded to earlier generations. They should not have to make the choice between books and food or view college education as an unrealistic option. To survive in the 21st century, Pennsylvania will need a highly educated citizenry, and closing down opportunities goes in the opposite direction.

Based on the data that already exists, Rand needed to recommend that Pennsylvania’s publicly owned universities need to be properly funded so they truly deliver on the State System’s legislatively mandated mission to provide a high-quality, affordable education for working-class Pennsylvanians.

APSCUF represents about 5,500 faculty and coaches at the State System universities: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock, and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania.