APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash’s comments as prepared:
Chairwoman Shapira, governors, university presidents, and guests,
Good morning. My name is Ken Mash, and I am the president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), which represents the faculty and coaches at our 14 great universities.
On behalf of our membership, I would like to welcome the members of the Board and thank you and all of the governors for your commitment of time and energy for the cause of providing high-quality, affordable, public higher education for Pennsylvanians.
The story of our universities is the story of success. Every semester, students are doing amazing things, and they graduate and go off to contribute the success of this Commonwealth. That is the narrative that should undergird every discussion involving the State System of Higher Education and its universities. Despite enormous challenges, we — all of us — get the job done.
Of course, it is always fair to ask what the System and our universities could do better and to point out the continued challenges that our universities and, more important, our students face when our universities are underfunded. The increase to the budget helps, and we are appreciative of the efforts by the governor and our legislative leaders to secure additional funding. Still, there are questions of affordability and sustainability that will remain.
We have had two studies that have been pretty critical of the System, and it is disturbing to think that those studies have created among some a false narrative of “failure.” Again, the story of our System is one of success, and no study can or should take that away.
But we can do things better. Over the past few weeks, I have been soliciting suggestions from my colleagues about what the System can and ought to do so that we might improve on that record of success. When our recommendations are complete, we will share those with the Board, the new chancellor, and other parties who share an interest in making positive changes to the System.
For the moment and in the interest of time, I would like to highlight three of these, which should not be news to anyone. We have been asking for these for years and years:
1. Create a joint application process that allows potential students to apply to more than one university at a time. This application should allow all universities to see who is applying, their application status and the major they are seeking. This will allow all of our universities to have an opportunity to contact students who may not even be aware of the offerings at other universities. Those universities that may have enrollment issues can approach students about their ability to transfer credits from one of our universities to another.
2. Create the infrastructure necessary, i.e., tuition collection and allocation, fee collection, transcript services, and necessary agreements with us to allow two or more faculty to create collaborative programs. Some of these agreements do exist, but having individual faculty and deans be concerned about back-end mechanics creates an unnecessary obstacle. Expanding collaborative programs is a student-centered approach that secures opportunities for students at all of our universities.
3. Create a gateway page that lists all distance-education programs and courses available at our universities and that allows students to register for a course, regardless of the university they attend or their matriculation status. This is the 21st century, and this is a 20th century request.
These requests are all student-centered and are meant to provide opportunities for our students. Frankly, we do not know how we could have gotten this far without action on these items.
As I noted, we will have several more proposals that we will share as we hope to expand upon the success of our System and our universities. We continue to assert that this System functions best when there are true opportunities to collaborate among all of our constituencies.
Thank you very much for your time and attention.