PASSHE Board of Governors
Remarks of Kenneth M. Mash, Ph.D.
October 9, 2014

Chairman Piccinni, Governors, Chancellor Brogan, University Presidents,

Based on yesterday’s actions, it appears that the Board will be requesting an additional funding from the Commonwealth. Your faculty and coaches appreciate the fact that the Board will be asking for additional funds. The spirit of that request is, indeed, a step in a positive direction. However, it is not enough. Our universities need restoration.

The time has come to be honest about what is occurring at our universities and to our students. According to Act 188, the very purpose of the system is “to provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost.” Members of this Board have taken both ends of that charge very seriously. But we are in danger of failing, if we are not already in places, on both ends of that charge.

Even during the previous administration, when budgets were stretched, members of the Board held fast to the idea that tuition increases should remain at a minimum. Since the $90 million cut in 2011, there have been tuition increases, but they have not kept pace with the costs of running our universities. Regardless, our students have had to take on an increasing share of the burden of paying for their educations at a public university in terms of increases in tuition and fees.

According to the Project on Student Debt, the average State System student leaves their university with $27,000 of debt. They will feel the effects of that debt for their entire lives. That debt will continue to have ripple effects throughout Commonwealth, and it will continue to do damage to our overall economy. For the sake of our students, we need restoration.

Meanwhile our universities continue to feel the pain of the 2011 cuts and the subsequent flat funding. Real questions have to be raised about whether we can meet our charge to provide a “high quality education:
• When we have a university that plans to not offer any introductory courses in music
• When we have a university that plans to not offer any sociology courses
• When we have a university that struggles to offer enough sections of English composition to their students
• When we have a university limiting student access to introductory courses in STEM fields
• When the programs that this Board approved to put into moratorium are filled with foreign language programs when we should be preparing our students for a globalized economy
• When universities are slashing their student support services aimed at helping students succeed
• When universities have delayed basic required maintenance to their buildings and grounds

Unfortunately, that list can go on much further. For the sake of high quality education, we need restoration.

I encourage you, members of the Board to visit our campuses to venture past the guided tour and speak to our students, faculty, and coaches, and hear for yourselves what has been going on. 

Forty two of the 50 states have already moved to restore cuts made during the Great Recession. Pennsylvania is not one of them. Our Commonwealth ranks 48 out of 50 states when it comes to per capita funding for public higher education. That hurts our students; it hurts our Commonwealth. Every study that has been done shows that every dollar invested in public higher education returns multiple times that dollar back into the state’s economy. Our Commonwealth needs restoration.

Our universities do not suffer from expenditure problems. They are lean to the bone. Our universities continue to suffer from revenue problems.

Our system needs to be honest and bold. We need to restore our universities so that we may live up to the charge of Act 188. Our universities need restoration of the $90 million dollar cut of 2011. Further, we should request whatever additional funds on top of that that would enable a guarantee of no tuition increase for the next year. Our students need restoration.

I hope that some voice will be given to these realities as you proceed in your discussions about the System’s budget request.

I thank you for your attention.