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Chancellor John Cavanaugh sits on the Governor’s Commission for Post-Secondary Education. He testifies annually in front of both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees about the State System’s budget request. He is the leader of State System and should be its biggest advocate. So what is his vision for PASSHE’s future?


Two years ago, Chancellor Cavanaugh co-authored an article with William Graves entitled “Strategic Thinking about How Costs and Goals Interact” for the May/June 2010 issue of Trusteeship Magazine. In the article, he and Graves outline the need for university administrators to employ cost-reduction measures and preserve quality.

The article praises PASSHE’s approach to productivity, arguing that “academic quality can be increased at the same time that costs are reduced.” This is apparently achieved through diversifying delivery models (read: more distance education), increasing faculty productivity (read: increased class sizes), eliminating low-enrolled programs, and employing other cost-saving measures. According to the Chancellor, ”results to date indicate that well over $200 million in cost savings and cost avoidance can be documented, as well as increased faculty productivity – and significantly improved student retention and completion.”

After promoting PASSHE’s strategic plan, the article praises Antioch University for its two-prong approach to overhauling its strategic vision. “On the one hand, the board ultimately took the wrenchingly difficult step of suspending operations at its historic residential college and releasing the faculty and staff…As the second part of the strategy for moving beyond its roots – while adhering to its values and generating new revenue streams – Antioch created a doctoral program in an executive format (occasional face-to-face meetings, combined with online delivery otherwise). “ The Chancellor and Graves – who is a member of Antioch’s board of governors – deem the changes a success: “today, Antioch University is a financially and academically healthy system.” This is the same Antioch University that the AAUP sanctioned in June of 2010 for alleged violations of shared governance.

The chancellor of our State System is lauding the dismantling of a liberal arts college, touting distance education, and pushing efficiency and productivity. He claims that these measures will preserve – and in some cases, increase – quality.

Where is the Chancellor when we need him to fight for public higher education? He is openly advocating for a business model approach to higher education.