APSCUF live-tweeted last month’s State System budget-appropriations hearings before the Senate and House of Representatives. Watch both sessions in their entirety on our YouTube channel. Together, the hearings last more than four hours, so we’ve compiled the segments we thought were of most interest to APSCUF members. Here’s what stood out to us in the House hearing.
Some background: Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education’s Board of Governors requested a 2018–19 appropriation of $526.2 million, an increase of $73.1 million over current funding. In his address in February, Gov. Tom Wolf announced $15 million more for our 14 universities in his budget proposal.
Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney, Shippensburg University President Laurie A Carter, and Brian Swatt, Board of Governors student member and Indiana University of Pennsylvania student, responded to legislators’ questions.
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Rep. R. Lee James began by asking about the National Center For Higher Education Management Systems report and how the system was responding to its recommendations. Interim Chancellor Whitney said she carries the report with her every day and said it was an “excellent” and “elegant” guiding document. She described the process since the report as “review, redesign, resilience” and referred legislators to the State System’s page of updates.
“I’ll try to steer your comments … Parts of the strategic review have complaints about everything from salary considerations to program management,” James said. He quoted from the report: “The real policy document under which the State System is led and managed is the APSCUF collective bargaining agreement. … I don’t know if you believe that or not; I do. If you could tie your comments about that with the cash-flow situation for the system, I would appreciate it.”
Whitney referenced union agreements in her response. (All links and embedded videos are cued to intended starting points.)
“I think the notion of the recommendation of NCHEMS was to criticize us that we were spending a tremendous amount of our strategic and best time, talent, and resources on managing union agreements versus spending our time, talent, and treasure on focusing on the students,” Whitney replied. “And it was an easy thing to slip into. I mean this state is a closed-shop state. There’s a long history of organized labor that is a part of the Pennsylvania culture and history. … We’ve slipped into this culture over time, and it was a wake-up call to say while you have agreements and you have to do them, you have rules, statute, laws, history you have to follow, you’re too overly engulfed by that, and you’re missing the point, and that’s the students and higher learning. So I think, No. 1, that’s the language I took out of there.”
Whitney confirmed that James was asking further about union agreements and funding, to which she continued:
“In terms of union agreements and funding — and I’ve mentioned this when I was a president, and I still believe this way now as chancellor — I have a great deal of respect for agreements and for a fairly negotiated contracts,” she said. “What I’ve come to appreciate over my now eight years in higher education in Pennsylvania is there’s a structural disconnect between the way in which we arrange these contracts, no matter what they are or no matter who they’re with. The way we arrange them and commit to them and then the disconnect is the way we fund them.”
Whitney then used as an example the State System’s 2018–19 funding request and Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed $15 million appropriations increase:
“At the same time, though, we have far in excess of over about $40 million in required additional labor contract increases next year,” she said. “The math doesn’t work. Fifteen from the state — let’s assume we got the 15 — 40 in negotiated, rightfully negotiated, contract obligations. That’s a that’s a loser right there. I mean, what does that mean? Do we ask the students for the remaining? Do we cut services and programs? That’s the structural problem that we’re working on right now. We’re engaging the board on it. I can tell you right now we’re looking at what are other states doing. We’re going slow. We’re being thoughtful. We’re going to engage our union partners in this question, but fundamentally we are broken in the way we approach contracting and funding these contracts.”
Rep. Maria P. Donatucci asked about higher-education access for underserved populations. Whitney shared student demographics, including that more than 40 percent of State System students are first-generation college students. “We are Pennsylvania,” Whitney said.
Rep. Karen Boback asked what the State System is doing about the NCHEMS report recommendations, specifically about “the most financially vulnerable,” as she referred to Cheyney and Mansfield universities and their enrollments.
Whitney referenced APSCUF’s CBA in her response:
“The way I look at our 14 universities is we have universities with larger enrollments and smaller enrollments,“ Whitney said, “But we have an operating model that is about 300 years old. … For example our labor costs, usually in organizations, are variable costs. With our, again, our commitments and the way we’ve been legislatively required to operate with 90 percent of our employees in unions — and that’s not a disagreement with unions. What it means, though, is you fix work rules, you fix compensation and salary for years, and it’s very difficult, if not impossible, to change that. So, really, though, when you have smaller-enrolled universities, we’re not able to currently be flexible enough to fit our operation to the enrollment of the universities. So I think we have an operations problem, not an enrollment problem.”
Whitney pointed out that Cheyney’s enrollment is not the lowest among all Pennsylvania bachelor’s-degree-offering universities.
“I think we need to grow our enrollments because we have a mission,” Whitney said. “I don’t think we have to grow enrollments to prove some type of worthiness.”
The State System has created task forces to examine what changes it can make within its current authority, Whitney said, and it also is looking at what legislative changes might be required to make additional changes.
“We’re fixing ourselves,” she said, and reiterated the State System’s redesign priorities of students success, leveraging university strengths, and transforming the State System’s governance/leadership structure. She pointed out policies the State System eliminated at its January board meeting. “My view is if it doesn’t advance our three priorities, let’s eliminate it, and then if in fact we miss it, we can put it back.”
Whitney said our universities are “not your grandmother’s teachers colleges” and have shifted to meet economic needs, including science, technology, engineering, math, and healthcare.
Rep. Leanne Krueger-Braneky asked what the State System is doing to improve diversity at all State System school and what it is doing to preserve Cheyney University. Whitney pointed to the appointment of Aaron Walton as president.
“Really what’s happening is doing an excruciating review of all operations, of all employees,” Whitney said. “You can’t imagine: This is one of the toughest things is to be fiscally in line they’re gonna have to employ fewer people and at the same time they’re trying to grow enrollment.”
Whitney outlined Cheyney’s recruitment efforts and said, “So it is quite possible that this fall we will report a lower enrollment at Cheyney and a higher quality. … And in my view that would be a success. The worst thing we can do is recruit somebody who in no way can succeed. That’s demoralizing.”
Whitney continued: ”It’s particularly difficult because many people will hold the criticism to a university — again back to the enrollment — what’s wrong with you, your enrollment’s down? Well, in some cases, that’s by a plan. You’re introducing higher-quality programs, more demanding programs, you’re re-engineering programs, you’re taking some things away because of the structural problem with the budget, and that’s going to affect enrollment.”
Addressing Krueger-Braneky’s question about increasing diversity, Whitney shared State System data about increased minority enrollments.
“We are the Commonwealth’s universities, and we must reflect that in who we’re teaching and how we’re teaching and what we’re teaching,” she concluded.
Rep. Keith J. Greiner, from Lancaster County, touted Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology’s job placement and salaries after graduation.
“I understand all these people have a different definition of success, and I realize an annual income is not the only measure of success,” Greiner said. “Should it be a concern, and should the State System and universities play any role in directing students or educating them to fields of study that are deemed maybe more in demand by the workforce — and then maybe which in turn provides a faster return on investment for their students?”
Whitney called students “savvy” and pointed to the State System’s growth in STEM-H programs. She shared information about graduate employment rates and earnings.
“When these young students are coming to the schools, are you letting them know that if you want a teaching position that only 20 percent of you might end up getting a job, or are you relying on the students and the families to do their own research?” Greiner countered, asking for updated information on earnings of State System graduates.
Whitney described career counseling and intervention “so that (students) can align their interests in such a way that they really feel that college experience has been very relevant.”
Rep. Donna Bullock asked about changes or lessons learned from Cheyney University that could be applied systemwide.
“I think only now are we acting like a system,” Whitney said, pointing out a “cross-pollination of best practices.”
“President Walton and his leadership team is really leading in some ways that are a tremendous benefit to the whole system,” Whitney said.
Bullock asked Whitney to describe Cheyney’s Keystone Honors program, and the interim chancellor said she wished all students could have such experiences.
“It is not just about a few students; it’s about an entire campus environment,” Whitney said.
Bullock reiterated her support for State System funding: “If we want our students to be successful, whether at Cheyney or at any of our other universities, we need to support them and invest in them.”
Rep. Brad Roae immediately referenced APSCUF’s collective bargaining agreement.
“In the strategic review, there’s a very startling quote: It says, ‘the real policy document under which the State System is led and managed is the APSCUF collective bargaining agreement,’” he said.
Roae then launched into a series of yes-no questions:
“When you take that cost of $33.6 million, you divide it by the number of students that you have, that’s about $353 per student just for the pay raise,” he said. “Would you favor putting that on student tuition bills just to raise awareness of how expensive the collective bargaining agreement is to the tuition they pay?”
Whitney did not answer.
“That’s a yes-no question,” Roae prompted. “But the bill would say ‘Tuition: $7,492, Faculty pay raise: $353.’ Would you favor adding that to the bill so the students could see it?”
After a few more seconds of pause and confirming that she could not elaborate, she answered in the negative.
Roae continued the barrage:
- “Does the current contract still require full-time professors to teach 12 hours a week?” (Whitney gave a longer answer, explaining that 12 hours was the minimum teaching time.)
- “Does the contract still allow 7 percent of the professors to be on paid sabbatical leave at any given time? The prior contract did that. Does the new contract do that as well, yes or no?” (Whitney said there is no change.)
- “The prior contract gave two pay raises a year to professors. There’s a general pay increase and an increment or a step increase for most of the professors. Is that the case in the new contract also?” (Whitney said yes.)
- “The prior contract gave free tuition to kids of professors and spouses of professors. Is that still in the new contract?” (Yes)
- “OK, very, very expensive thing,” Roae concluded. “So would you support efforts to rein in that contract a little bit to help control costs, yes or no?”
Whitney grinned and asked, “Does he do this to everybody?”, engendering laughter.
“I think it’s fun,” Roae said. “I think it’s important, like our young gentleman that’s sitting here, I’ll ask him a question. Maybe he’ll answer more quickly. Do you realize that $353 of the tuition you paid this year is for the faculty pay raise?”
Swatt said he was aware as both a student and State System Board of Governors member.
“And are most students OK with that?” Roae pressed.
Swatt said his peers were concerned about rising cost of tuition and “the general understanding of why the increase in tuition is occurring is sometimes not completely there.”
Roae continued: “Something else that was in the strategic review: It says, ‘Collective bargaining agreements have also enshrined requirements that handicap the ability of institutions to address local issues and to swiftly respond to local opportunities. A salary schedule that is the same for all disciplines and ignores differences across Pennsylvania in prevailing wage and cost-of-living constraints … ’ I don’t have time to read the whole thing, but I guess the question I’m going to ask you is … would you support a salary schedule by university, reflecting their local cost of living? So, for example, the same exact position at Edinboro would pay less than what that position would pay for at West Chester? Would you support that — giving the local institutions more control to adjust things to the cost of living locally?”
Whitney expanded on Roae’s proposal.
“Representative, you’re mentioning some very good practices that exist in higher education and other unions and other states,” she said. “What I support is a complete review of everything we’re doing and how we completely approach our contracting with organized labor. I support an entire review, not just one particular item here right now, because again we’ve got something that was crafted well over 35 years ago, and it doesn’t reflect modern thinking and modern times toward higher learning. So I want a review. I’ve talked to our statewide leaders of our unions. We are working through that in our system design. We need a completely different approach. You’ve mentioned some good practices, and I would say those all need to be discussed in the thoughtful, collaborative way with our union leadership for many, many of the reasons you’ve suggested. But I’m going to say we have to go further: a complete review and a complete redesign of our approach to how labor and management work together and the system’s requirement.
“I will say, however, that this was orchestrated and constructed beyond the system and beyond the office of the chancellor. This is part of an overall culture and history of Pennsylvania that I would call out. So my question back is are you ready for us to do this? Is this body ready for us to redesign our fundamental relationships, and are you willing to support and create those incentives for that?”
Roae concluded with one last swipe at APSCUF.
“I would hope that the system would encourage the board to reign in the union contract so you don’t bankrupt the whole system,” Roae said.
Rep. Stephen Kinsey, a graduate of West Chester University who is on WCU’s council of trustees, opened with praise for the State System: “I want to thank PASSHE for really taking actions over the past few years that I believe are taking the PASSHE system in the right direction, and that is specifically hiring president Fiorentino from interim to the president of West Chester University, along with hiring President Walton for Cheyney University … I’m very happy to see that PASSHE has moved in the direction of hiring a president, a gentleman who I believe is a visionary individual who’s gonna lead Cheyney to some greater heights.”
Kinsey asked about relationship between Cheyney University and West Chester and other opportunities to collaborate.
“West Chester is not saving Cheyney,” she said, then described consortium approaches and leveraging university strengths systemwide.
“The exciting opportunity is from an academic standpoint, is looking at what are the strengths of the academics,” Whitney said. “For example, Cheyney has an outstanding hotel and restaurant-management program, so where do they leverage that to other universities? Where does a program like at Clarion in nursing — how do they leverage that to other universities? So it’s knowing we all have strengths and how do we create either online platforms or other ways that students can enter into a systemwide marketplace, an academic marketplace, and purchase and acquire credits or certificates or majors or minors in ways that they aren’t right now.”
Kinsey asked what the State System is doing to attract adult learners. Whitney referred to community colleges as “preferred partners” and said 1.4 million people in Pennsylvania have attended college but have no degree — all potential students for State System schools.
Rep. George Dunbar, after discussing with Swatt why the student chose to attend Indiana University of Pennsylvania, asked Whitney about the NCHEMS report’s comments on “unhealthy competition” among State System as well as state-related universities.
“Many people think, ‘Oh, competition’s good,’” Whitney said. “There’s a downside that it keeps people holding secrets. It keeps a distance. I mean we are not a for-profit retailer. We are the state’s system of higher learning, so we are about collaboration and engagement and leveraging our resources — the students’ as well as the state’s.”
Dunbar asked against whom the State System competed.
“We’re competing not with 139 (other universities in Pennsylvania),” Whitney said, holding up a list of schools. “We’re competing against poverty. We’re competing against domestic violence, opioid abuse. We’re competing with communities that are so undereducated, particularly in the rural communities here, that we still have women, kids who grow up in families where their parents don’t want them to go to college. That’s what we’re competing against. That’s our competition because we are not at the forefront in this country of college-educated citizens. We’re pretty much in the middle. So my view is our competition are these larger societal forces … Our point is to be relevant and to provide value.”
Rep. Tim Briggs, who graduated from West Chester University, said the bottom line is cost when it comes to selecting a university.
“We are setting a generation up with huge debt,” he said. “ … Every year I ask, ‘Give me some examples of what the campuses are doing to save money,’ and you’re doing all those. I don’t want to send my daughter to a school that doesn’t attract good professors. I want our schools, our state-owned schools, to be just as good as every other school. And if you’re gonna nickel-and-dime ‘em and try to say, you know, ‘You’re not gonna get the same benefits as other schools,’ we’re setting ourselves up for the wrong direction.”
Briggs pointed out “bogus” attitudes and “gotcha-type questions” about work hours and salaries being asked during the hearing.
“If we can do a better job of funding our state-owned school to make tuition more affordable, to try not to strap the next generation, and allow you to compete against schools that are offering a lot more financial aid than your schools are able,” he proposed.
Whitney addressed attitudes about faculty work hours in her response.
“There is a fundamental relationship between the partnership between the student and the state,” she said. “And particularly our kind of universities. Our universities are dedicated universities to teaching and learning. Our faculty work 24/7. And you gave a good example here about how a public can misunderstand how hard you’re working … (Faculty) do way more than be in their classes 12 hours a week. They spend two to three hours a week preparing for every hour in class, they’re doing research, they’re doing service, they’re doing advising and mentoring and being with the students in that experience. And all of you are alum know that. You know faculty that met with you outside of class and what they meant to you, and that’s occurring right now, too.”
Whitney reiterated her call for the state to fund the State System closer to 50-50.
“We need to get a handle on our approach to organized labor and our contracts, so they can be sensible and flexible to allow for stability,” she continued, then pointed out the detriment of cuts to programs and services at our universities. Briggs mentioned the deep 2011 appropriations cuts. Whitney expressed appreciation for funding increases in recent years but said they have not made up for the cuts during Gov. Tom Corbett’s administration.
Rep. Sheryl M. Delozier encouraged outreach to inform students about the cost of education and available financial assistance. She also asked about campus safety and why the State System has not added victim-advocate positions and investigators mentioned in its briefing.
“Money,” Whitney replied without hesitation.
Delozier asked whether security positions were included in the State System’s requested 58 additional positions. Whitney answered that most of those positions are for faculty.
“OK, so it’s not a priority, then, to hire these types of individuals,” Delozier said. “It’s more of a priority, I mean, shouldn’t it be balanced out — the campus safety and reaching out to students as well as the faculty needs?”
Whitney called it a “balancing act” and pointed out that many security needs are funded with fees instead of appropriations. Shippensburg’s Carter described safety training at her university.
Rep. Mary Jo Daley asked about older-adult education.
“The focus on that, I think, is an important one because it’s about jobs, but it’s also about that broad education that you can get and how important that is,” Daley said. “So I have a note here that we value education in Pennsylvania, and I sometimes question how much we actually value Pennsylvania in education when I sit at appropriations hearings. And I do understand that our need is to fund all the needs of the state in a reasonable, fair way that doesn’t overburden the citizens of Pennsylvania.”
Daley asked whether, in the wake of the NCHEMS study, there were legislative changes that could help the State System be more flexible and work more easily.
Whitney said the State System is working on a legislative agenda.
“I will tell you one of the most concrete recommendations in this NCHEMS study is something that most recently, a couple weeks ago, Ken Mash, who’s president of APSCUF, and I talked about is the recommendation that we should be able to pursue buyouts and phased retirements,” she said. “Again we have a workforce that is a beautiful workforce. The men and women who are the faculty and staff of this system, they have given, many of them, this is their career. Their life’s work has been the students at these universities. But the downside is if you’re in one area that was really an incredibly hot area 25 years ago and it isn’t right now, how do you change that? That’s a tough deal. So we lack the tools to engage in a respectful and appropriate way to shift our workforce. We’ve got tools, and most of them are terrible. We need more tools. There’s a task group that is labor and management right now looking at phased retirements and buyout. … Those are the kinds of tools that we need that we don’t have, that most other systems like ours with organized labor have in this country and we don’t.”
Whitney said she is having these discussions with APSCUF now. Daley asked about a timeline, and Whitney said she would “ask Ken that when I leave the room” and that she would love to take it to the next board meeting.
“Let’s be really clear here: The whole point is to shift and shape the workforce to our enrollments,” Whitney said.
Rep. Sue Helm asked if there has “ever been any consideration on the part of the PASSHE board to allow differential pricing among the universities, like maybe with a more popular school or not.”
Whitney described the State System’s so-called tuition pilots, including per-credit tuition, in recent years and lauded East Stroudsburg University’s Warrior Promise eight-semester tuition-freeze program.
“Over time, I believe we will mature not to a one-size price fit for all — which I think is a mistake — to individual pricing,” Whitney said. “There will be the Ship price and the Bloom price and the Kutztown price that links back to their mission, their strategic plan, their academic program, and their purpose, and it’ll all line up together. And that’s occurring in a very methodical, thoughtful way.”
Helm praised the idea.
“What I’m going to introduce is a concept of regional affordability,” Whitney said. “This state is a complex state. I mean, if you think about average family incomes by certain counties, there’s a two to three X-factor difference between family incomes. We need to be more sensitive in our regional affordability throughout this state, and that’s to me the fundamental reason why we have to walk away from a pretty much 1970s view of pricing, of one size fits all.”
Helm asked which universities in the system are the strongest financially and by “enrollment stability.” Whitney answered that the larger universities had the larger enrollments. Helm asked the secret to these universities’ success, to which Whitney replied, “Location.” She pointed to entrepreneurialism of leaders the State System is hiring.
“That’s why you’re seeing the growth in STEM-H credentials and you’re seeing growth in business,” Whitney said. “The other thing is we held on to education too long. I mean you’re if gonna look at this as a product line of credentials, the labor market for teachers, you know there’s a bit of an uptick now, and there’s some teacher shortages in certain areas, but quite frankly it’s a crazy labor market.”
Rep. Madeleine Dean decried the defunding of public higher education in Pennsylvania.
“I look at what we do with education, it is utterly the most important thing we do,” Dean said. “How we educate our kids determines our future. We all know that, and so it’s frustrating to see the struggle of declining dollars from the state in terms of support over the course of a couple of decades now. We saw a terrible spike, but over the course of a couple decades, we have sort of passed the buck to you and to the students.”
She addressed violence on campus, especially gun violence, and referenced the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., a few days previous.
“We have faculty that I know would want to be part of a solution for this state,” Whitney said. “So again, what are we good for? We are teaching and learning, and we’re about solving problems, so if we can be of any service or support in providing solid policy recommendations that can make a difference, please know that we’re available because we are all citizens of the state and we have a stake in this.”
Shippensburg’s Carter spoke again about training at her university. Swatt mentioned programs and services available at IUP.
“In addition to additional funding, I think the burden is on us to make sure we adequately fund you so you can provide that safety, that level of education, but also it’s on us to legislatively figure out, to solve the problem you’re talking about (campus safety and violence),” Dean said.
Rep. Warren Kampf asked about graduation rates. Whitney pointed out that 41 percent of State System students graduate in four years, compared with the national average of 28 percent. The State System is 10 percent ahead of the national average for six-year graduation rates, Whitney said. The two discussed STEM-H programs and workforce needs.
He asked for information about the State System’s reserves.
“Reserves are a complicated issue,” Lois Johnson, the system’s associate vice chancellor for administration and finance, said. “Really, we all have negative reserves due to our long-term liabilities that we all have to carry on our books associated with pensions, healthcare for retirees, etcetera.”
Kampf pressed for more information.
“There are some limited resources available that can be used in the short term to help meet our ongoing obligations for a one-time kind of expenditure,” Johnson said.
Rep. Peter Schweyer, who represents the Allentown school district, asked about recruitment efforts for school districts that have a higher proportion of disadvantaged students or students of color. Whitney said the system comprises Pennsylvania’s universities and we have obligation to all residents.
“I just want to reiterate: We are the state’s university,” Whitney said. “And we have an obligation to work with all of the citizens of this state.” She said the State System has increased enrollment of minority students by 56 percent over the past 10 years.
Carter elaborated on such recruitment efforts.
“That recruitment effort requires not just recruitment of students but recruitment of families and recruitment of communities,” Carter said. “ … And so building a place for those populations is not as simple as saying, ‘Come to Ship.’ You have to prepare the community, you have to train the community on how to deal with the population so that the students feel welcomed and well received, that families feel that their student is safe there, and that culturally they’ll be respected and honored. And we’re doing that work. We’re not doing it perhaps as quickly as we should, but we’re certainly changing the way we’re viewing those communities and approaching them. This is a very important segment of the population for us because we are leaving them behind, and that’s not fair.”
Schweyer concluded: “Every month, every year that it’s taking us to build a better infrastructure to recruit folks, you’re leaving another generation of kids behind.”
Rep. Marguerite Quinn also addressed STEM-H programs.
“I do have concerns in marrying the trend that will be declining enrollment in those majors to collective bargaining agreements,” she said. “And I’m happy to hear that, you know, if we’re looking down the road a few years and we’ve got, you know, half dozen kids in a class where you still have tenured faculty that … you have on board, and by virtue of their contracts they’re not going anywhere.”
Quinn mentioned early buyouts and thanked Whitney for “tools just to help you better manage that so we don’t have empty classrooms, empty online courses, and an abundance somewhere else yet still have faculty — and I don’t know if there’s a composite there of redirecting faculty, if that could be starting now to redirecting into some of those others. Is that something that’s ongoing?”
Whitney called for what she called an “academic marketplace.”
“What we have to try to do is use technologies via distance or other innovations to leverage what the current faculty have to maximize that valuable resource,” Whitney said.
Quinn countered, “I understand that. I respect it. My concern is assuming each major would be a product that some of those products will be more obsolete than others in terms of an academic major.”
Whitney described how the State System has eliminated more programs than it has added over the past eight years.
“What does that do to the faculty who was in there?” Quinn interjected.
“Well, that’s why you see a lot of conflict,” Whitney said.
Quinn asked followup questions about cybersecurity and about dependent-benefit audits for those enrolled in the State System’s healthcare plan. Johnson said the system routinely audits those in its plan.
Rep. Fred Keller asked if the NCHEMS report included “outcomes or actionable items for us to work on” and if “(we have) done anything with that to create a list of items that we want to get done by a certain time with measurable results.” Whitney reiterated changes the State System has made so far and pointed to the State System’s page for system redesign updates.
“I know there’s been a lot of debate about affordability for education, and it should be a concern for everybody,” Keller said about incomes of State System students’ families. He asked if Whitney knew the published rate of inflation for “Philadelphia, Wilmington, and Atlantic City by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.” Whitney replied “a little over 2 percent,” and Keller corrected, “.8.”
“I think our families are gonna struggle with that,” he declared, saying that State System costs are escalating at four times the rate of inflation and referring to students as “customers.”
He said he hoped the State System was working on “ways to more efficiently deliver a quality education and reduce some of the costs.”
In her response, Whitney again criticized labor in Pennsylvania.
“There’s a continuous-improvement approach and higher ed, and efficiency’s one of them,” she said. “What I will point out, though, is my earlier comment around our broken approach to labor contracts — the negotiating and committing to contracts and then their funding. And it predates me. It predates all of us in this room. It’s a history of the state, and until we actually get our arms around the idea of that as a broken situation — because the presidents don’t set these labor contracts.”
Keller asked whether labor contracts “include performance” and tenure. Whitney confirmed tenure and added that “there’s a lot of language on ensuring quality of instruction and the matriculation of our faculty through the years.”
Keller took a final swipe before his time concluded.
“I would think we would want to focus on performance rather than somebody just being there longer,” he said.
Rep. Doyle Heffley talked about non-college paths for students after high school.
“Everyone should have a postsecondary credential,” Whitney said. “ … If you think about what life will throw at you throughout your lifetime, I don’t believe a high school degree is sufficient.”
Heffley mentioned his daughter, who takes online courses at Bloomsburg University and dually enrolled in community-college courses while in high school.
“I see education really evolving to the point where it, I think the majority of it, is gonna be online, and I think you’re gonna have to continue that education,” he said. “ … If you’re going for a four-year degree right now on iPhones, by the time that four years is up, the iPhones are gonna probably be eliminated; it’ll be something else. So technology and everything is changing so fast.”
Whitney said he’d see more online offerings because “we’re meeting where Pennsylvania wants us to be.”
As the panel wound down, Rep. Joseph Markosek, the committee’s Democratic chair, told Whitney, “If you could bottle that enthusiasm and sell it, you’d make a fortune. And I think it’s rubbed off on the others here today.”
He then praised the system as a whole.
“You all do such a great job,” he said. “You’re such a huge asset for our Commonwealth, and … we need to make sure and ensure that you survive and you survive very enthusiastically with our Commonwealth because you’re such an important part of the fabric and the economy, not just the educational benefits that we all get, but you’re a big part of our economy as well with all your various locations. So I want to say keep up the good work. I will do, and I’m sure most all of the members here on both sides of the aisle, will do what we can to ensure that you have the resources to do a very good job in educating our constituents here in Pennsylvania, so I want to thank you.”
Chair Rep. Stan Saylor encouraged Whitney to reconsider her retirement and said he was a big fan. He praised the opportunities he had when he attended IUP as a first-generation college student.
He then launched his own take on the APSCUF contract.
“When I was at IUP, and, chancellor, you talked about the labor contract — and I’m going to talk about that for a little bit, not to pick on APSCUF or to pick on the governor or anybody else — but when I was there, professors were required to teach for 16 hours, and eight hours in the office, so the students had the ability to do that,” he said. “And I think we heard some of the colleagues talk about the cost of education. And it’s not probably just with PASSHE. It’s all of our universities. The studies have shown nationally, the cost of higher ed has risen way above the rate of inflation. We can’t continue that and expect that low-income families can afford it. There is never going to be enough money to do the things we need to do, if we don’t keep salaries in line with the rate of inflation — and what the guy and woman who’s sending their child to school are making as well.”
He called “being a college professor … a very honorable profession,” but proceeded to accost the union.
“I think APSCUF has to look at changes that need to be made because if, truly, if when you’re involved in education, you truly are there because you care about kids and children and the quality of our future generations, you also have to take into consideration what you’re doing there as well,” Saylor said. “You can’t just be selfish, and you can’t just be there because it pays very well and better benefits than anybody else has. And I say that as a member of the House who has better benefits than most people of this Commonwealth have as well.
“So I would just say to the future governors, and this governor when the next contract comes up, and to APSCUF: to really take that in consideration is why are they college professors? Is it because they care about our children, or is it because it’s about the pay and the benefits? And that’s not besmirching them, either. We have some great professors in our system — absolutely no doubt about that.”
He appeared to be wrapping up with pleasantries but then returned to budget topics.
“The real concern is that in today’s world, as I asked people Brian’s generation, ‘What do you want the next, the future to look like and how much do you want taken from your pay?’” Saylor said. “Because I get a lot of complaints from college students about how much they pay in taxes on their part-time jobs. So it is something that at least we have to take in consideration here as elected officials sometimes is how high do you raise taxes to pay for all the demands that we have today. And it’s a difficult decision as you all well know.”
He reiterated his praise of Whitney: “I’d love to see you recommit yourself to being chancellor again. It would be the smartest thing this board of trustees did.”
He closed with a charge to “deal” with Cheyney and Mansfield — and more remarks about APSCUF.
“I really hope the board of trustees has the courage — and it’s gonna take courage — to deal with Cheyney and Mansfield,” Saylor said. “Because if we don’t deal with those two universities — what needs to be fixed — we will have other universities in the same situation. Because I know there’s some other ones in the system that are struggling at this time as well, and I’m a real believer in PASSHE, but if we fail to deal with those two situations, I can see where West Chester, IUP, or whatever becomes private universities. And we have a demand here because some people say, ‘Why give PASSHE any more money? Put it into PHEAA,’ you know. So there’s a lot of competition for education dollars today, and that’s what I think APSCUF, I think the college presidents, and board of trustees have to understand when it comes to higher ed, it’s not just PASSHE. It’s PHEAA, the private universities, our community colleges, and our trade schools in the state who are post-secondary education. The demand for education dollars is tremendous, and I’m a real believer in education as the former chairman of the House education committee, but we have to find a way to make all that successful.”