Below are talking points to use in discussions regarding Rep. Roae’s legislation that directly attacks state-owned universities.

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Background Information:

  • Representative Brad Roae (R-Crawford) has introduced a 10-bill “Keep Tuition Affordable” Package that would have drastic and damaging effects on the State System of Higher Education.
  • In reality, the bills do little (in many cases, nothing) to keep tuition affordable, and will ultimately hurt educational quality at our universities.
  • APSCUF is opposed to all ten pieces of legislation.

Bills Referred to House State Government Committee:

House Bill 2442: Deregulates student activity fees, no longer making them mandatory for any student to pay. Students can elect not to pay by signing a form at the start of each semester.

  • Student activity fees are minimal fees that go toward a range of services, including athletics, local bus services, student governments, student clubs and organizations, speakers, and seminars. The average activity fee is $189.
  • Students, through the student government associations, determine how the funds are spent.
  • Making the activity fee optional will lead to the elimination of many services, limiting opportunities for students to enhance their educational, social, and leadership skills.<

House Bill 2443: Prohibits institutions from providing free or reduced tuition for spouses, children, same sex partners, or relatives of employees of the institution or any other institution.

  • Free or reduced tuition is widely used in higher education to recruit and retain high-quality faculty and staff.
  • Eliminating this benefit would separate PASSHE universities from other public and private institutions, reducing their ability to compete for high-quality faculty and staff. <

House Bill 2444: Restricts the State System from administrating or executing contracts for the construction, repair, renovation, and maintenance of buildings unless the contract already exists, or an emergency exists that would cause harm to students, employees, or the public.

  • The PASSHE system currently faces a $2 billion backlog of building maintenance, which makes up nearly 40 percent of the replacement value of buildings.
  • Sixty percent of buildings on PASSHE campuses have not been renovated in 25 years; 20 percent have not been renovated in 50 years.
  • It is hazardous to students, faculty, staff, and the community for a university to wait until an emergency exists to repair or renovate existing infrastructure. <

House Bill 2446: Prohibits paid sabbaticals for employees.

  • Sabbaticals are recognized as critical tools to enhance the quality of faculty, instruction, and curriculum at universities. Nearly every college in the United States offers some form of sabbatical leave.
  • If granted, sabbaticals are used by faculty to improve professional knowledge and skills, develop new methods of teaching, and conduct intensive research in their field —all benefits they bring back to the classroom.
  • Faculty members must go through a comprehensive application and review process to be granted sabbatical leave.

Bills Referred to House Labor and industry Committee:

  • The bills referred to the House Labor and Industry Committee have the potential to increase faculty workloads, take away bargaining rights and benefits, and decrease the quality of instruction.

House Bill 2445: Requires a faculty member serving as president or other officer for a collective bargaining unit to teach the same number of credit hours as other faculty members with the same classification.

  • APSCUF relies on strong leadership at our campuses to help protect faculty, coach, and student interests.
  • APSCUF chapter presidents and officers do more than part-time work on their campuses.

House Bill 2447: Prohibits faculty who teach less than 15 credit hours a semester from receiving any employer-paid benefits, including health insurance and retirement, or any other emolument of employment other than salary or compensation.

  • The average PASSHE faculty member works 55 hours per week, according to a report by the Joint State Government Commission.
  • Faculty members do more than just teach classes: we also hold office hours, act as advisors for student organizations, conduct research, grade assignments, and advise students.
  • Faculty members do not receive help with teaching their classes. PASSHE prohibits faculty from having graduate and teaching assistants teach classes.

House Bill 2449: Prohibits the chancellor or Board of Governors from approving any provision that limits the number of faculty members who teach at least 15 credit hours per semester, or who are otherwise deemed to be full-time professors.

  • The intent of HB2449 is unclear.
  • At PASSHE institutions, the Chief Academic Officer (usually the Provost) already must balance the number of full-time and part-time faculty based on the number of students enrolled.

House Bill 2450: Establishes the Responsible Students First Grant Fund with monies from the State System’s annual appropriation. Allocations will be made to State System universities for “responsible” students, defined as students who enter “job-ready” majors. The bill also establishes a Job-Ready Major Evaluation Advisory Committee to review academic majors offered by State System universities to determine the majors that will lead to gainful employment.

  • The PASSHE Board of Governors already responds to Pennsylvania’s changing workforce needs by approving new programs and eliminating low-enrolled programs.
  • Providing funding based on students enrolled in “job-ready” majors will narrow the curriculum taught at the institutions.
  • It is dangerous for state government to pick winners and losers; this plan will stifle innovation, weaken the liberal arts, and possibly deny monies to students attending graduate programs.

House Bill 2451: Prohibits any State System institution from increasing tuition for the 2012-2013 school year to a level greater than the 2011-12 tuition rate.

  • Tuition and state appropriations are the two main sources of revenue for the State System. As the state appropriation steadily declines, PASSHE is forced to rely on increases in tuition to fill its budget gap.
  • We want PASSHE universities to remain affordable for students, but if the state appropriation declines, the System must make up for the loss with tuition dollars or put academic programs and students services at risk.

House Bill 2452: Sets the max salary for State System university presidents at one dollar below the salary of the governor.

  • The State System already has the lowest rate of pay for university presidents in the region.
  • Over the past few years, PASSHE has experienced a high turnover rate for university presidents, because presidents are being offered higher salaries at other institutions.
  • Offering competitive salaries helps our universities attract presidents who can provide stability and vision for our campuses.