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PASSHE Board of Governors
Remarks of Kenneth M. Mash, Ph.D.
July 8, 2014

Chairman Pichini, Members of the Board, Chancellor Brogan,

My name is Kenneth Mash and I am the president of the APSCUF. I am proud to represent the approximately 6,000 faculty and coaches who are the heart of what we do at our 14 great universities.

Every day at those institutions, every one of them, your faculty and coaches are the ones who deliver to the students the promise of a quality higher education. Every day at our universities, our coaches are challenging their student athletes to be the best that they can be. Every day at our universities, faculty help students transform themselves into mature citizens.  Every day at our universities, there are faculty and coaches going the extra mile to help students reach their potentials.  Every day at our universities, there are faculty guiding their students into the workforce. Every day at our universities, faculty are engaged in groundbreaking research, and they do so despite the limited resources at their disposal. These are the stories that must be told.

The vibrancy, the buzz at our universities is something to behold. Excellence thrives at all of our campuses across the Commonwealth. Our students succeed. Every day at our universities, our students do amazing things, they reach new heights, exceed expectations, and our alumni go on to highly successful careers. 

Our universities, as study after study shows, return back to our communities and to the state far more than they receive in allocation dollars. They have also done more with less to the breaking point. 

These are the stories that need to be told loudly and broadly. 

The truth of our successes needs to be told repeatedly to the Governor, the legislature, and to the public. But, alas, I fear these are not the stories that will be told often enough. Instead we will wind up with stories related to the increasing costs of tuition and fees and the cuts that will need to be made. I assume that again this Board will pass a budget that leaves a gap in the millions for universities that are already struggling. The Presidents will be told to make due, and they will be forced to make decisions that are neither in the best interest of our students nor in the best interest of the Commonwealth.

The fact is that our universities can no longer do more with less. We now do less with less to the detriment of our students.  Cries of innovation, cutting costs, and removing bloat have had their day, but today they will do nothing to alleviate the impact on education. 

Of course you, Members of the Board are between the proverbial rock and hard place. Tuition at our universities, unlike many of the other universities, cannot unceasingly increase without ramification. Our very mission demands that we keep our universities affordable. But the budget axes have already struck at bone. Our universities cannot withstand more.

The numbers do not lie. There is a direct inverse relationship between decreased state funding and the rising cost of education at our universities. The only really solution is a commitment by the Commonwealth to properly fund the System. 

We are in very dangerous waters with a student debt crisis and a higher education crisis. Every cut that will be borne at our university will be made at the cost of our students’ education. You are all in a very tough spot.

 However, it is simply not enough for this Board to pass its budget and then instruct the Chancellor and the Presidents to go do their jobs. We need advocacy for our students. We need advocacy for our universities. 

Every constituent part of this system must speak up about the great things that we do. Every one of us needs to communicate that we are at the breaking point. We cannot afford to get into arguments as we scramble amongst ourselves for crumbs.  We cannot plot to protect our individual turfs. We are 14 great universities, and each one does its part to service our Commonwealth.

Chancellor Brogan, to his credit, has already begun to spread the word of our success.  But as talented as he is, he cannot do it alone. We need every member of this Board to join with the legislators on this Board to advocate for our students and our universities. The message of success must be delivered loud and clear, as must the dire consequences of the lack of state funding. 

We need vocal leadership that transcends this room. It is the most important thing you can do for each university as a member of this system.

Thank you for your attention.