House lawmakers call for comprehensive higher education study

HARRISBURG, June 6 – In an effort to ensure a quality higher education system for students and for Pennsylvania’s future workforce needs, state Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, today joined other state lawmakers to push for a comprehensive study of every public college and university in the state. 


Hanna was joined at a Capitol news conference by state Reps. James Roebuck, D-Phila., Mike Sturla, D-Lancaster, Scott Conklin, D-Centre, and others to discuss and promote a long-term sustainability and viability study of Pennsylvania’s public institutions of higher education.


The lawmakers discussed House Resolution 331, which would direct the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee to conduct the feasibility study and analyze all 14 universities of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, the state’s 14 community colleges, the Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology, the Rural Regional College of Northern Pennsylvania, the Allegheny College of Maryland and four state-related universities.


Hanna said that there are many proposals suggesting studies of one institution over another. However, in order to provide an accurate and thorough analysis of the future of public higher education in this state, he said it is important for the LBFC to analyze not just PASSHE, but all of the state’s public institutions of higher education.


“All Pennsylvania residents benefit from the skills and education gained by students at our public institutions of higher education,” Hanna said. “The future of this commonwealth depends in part on the ability of our public institutions of higher education to continue to fulfill their missions.”


Under this resolution, the study would require a detailed assessment of projected revenue and expenses for at least the next five years; college affordability over the next five years; and the potential for improved efficiencies and overall cost reductions. The resolution would also ask the study to report on shared governance, current and future infrastructure needs, the contributions made by any affiliates, subsidiaries, foundations, local sponsors or other entities, the adequacy of state support for institutions of higher education and best practices undertaken by policymakers in other states to address enrollment and fiscal pressures in public higher education.


“Our resolution aims to highlight the positive attributes of Pennsylvania’s public institutions of higher education while also shedding light on any inefficiencies and current or potential problems facing these institutions,” Roebuck said. “I would like to see this proposal be considered by the House Education Committee as soon as practical and, as the Democratic chairman, I will do everything possible to ensure it gets to the House floor for a full vote.”

Additionally, the study would require the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency, in the most recent year available, to provide a list of all public and private institutions that have students who receive grant money from PHEAA. The study would seek input from the Board of Governors, the Office of the Chancellor, the Councils of Trustees of PASSHE, the presidents of Pennsylvania’s universities and colleges, faculty, alumni, business leaders, students, the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, PHEAA and the Department of Education.


“Colleges and universities generate significant revenue in their surrounding communities. From rental income, to discretionary spending so it’s important that our schools operate efficiently for the vitality of surrounding communities. I’m a big supporter of not just traditional colleges and universities, but also of the opportunities that career and technical schools provide; especially Thaddeus Stevens College, which gives students the skills needed for lucrative, in-demand careers,” Sturla said. “We are looking for well-rounded results and believe the LBFC can and will deliver.”


Conklin said that he believes the state’s institutions of higher education, including Penn State University, are open to participating in any study that would ultimately improve the way business is conducted and that would expand the services offered to parents, students and faculty alike.


“Our state-related universities are not immune to constructive criticism. Many institutions are very much willing to participate in a study that improves the overall educational experiences for our young people,” Conklin said


H.R.331 was referred to the House Education Committee on May 11, 2017.