PASSHE consolidation, potential impacts focus of virtual House Democratic Policy Committee hearing
ERIE, May 20 – Positive and negative impacts of the proposed consolidation of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education were vetted at today’s House Democratic Policy Committee virtual hearing.
The hearing, hosted by committee Chairman Ryan Bizzarro, and state Reps. Peter Schweyer and Emily Kinkead, included testimony from educators, facility management, PASSHE leadership and students.
The committee heard testimony from Dr. Sam Claster, Sociology Department Chair, Edinboro University; Lydia Laythe, Washington Township Councilperson in Erie; and Mary Jo Campbell, Professor Emeritus,
Edinboro University; who all cautioned that moving forward without hearing from those directly involved in educating students and keeping schools in operation and how consolidation without addressing investment and system strains may not have the desired intention.
“The bottom line is Pennsylvania ranks 48th in investment in higher education. If we want to attract and retain Pennsylvania students and prepare them for a successful future, we must address the system’s shortcomings and invest in students so we can build a stronger higher education system that positions Pennsylvania with a vibrant workforce,” explained Bizzarro. “We do need to take our time and take an approach that can have positive, longstanding impacts on our commonwealth.”
Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chancellor Dr. Daniel Greenstein and Clarion University President Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson shared PASSHE’s efforts to take integration action that will expand opportunities for students, hold down costs and ensure reinvestment in institutions. Both engaged in a lengthy line of questioning with Democratic House members ranging from the potential impacts and need for further detail and impact studies to determine if moving forward with consolidation is right for the state system institutions.
“I was a poor kid who was very fortunate to be the first person in my family to graduate college. But I only was able to do so because the public invested in me and my future. The public needs to invest in our students just like they invested in me so that more and more of our young people can achieve their life goals,” said Schweyer, D-Lehigh. “PASSHE has some great schools and some great faculty, and I consider myself a supporter of the system. It’s time for its leadership to advocate for appropriate funding for the system and for the legislature to step up and follow through on our promise of an affordable college education for all who seek it.”
Local Union 2329 President Ross Brumagin and District Council 85 Director Shane Clark shared the impact potential closures and downsizing would have on workforces of the tradesman who keep state schools in operation, highlighting that while not the highest paying wages on campus, they are family-sustaining wage paying jobs.
“Earlier this month, I participated in a joint House Appropriations and Education Committee hearing to discuss the proposed consolidation, and as a PASSHE university graduate, I was extremely disappointed and frustrated in the significant lack of detail of the plan Chancellor Greenstein presented to us,” said Kinkead, D-Allegheny. “This hearing highlighted many of the ways the consolidation plan fails to give our PASSHE faculty, staff, and students clarity and peace of mind. We need more details before we can move forward.”
Finally, the committee heard from PASSHE students and their thoughts on how consolidation could ultimately allow Edinboro University to continue serving students with diverse needs from diverse backgrounds. Kyle Hurysz and Majd Al-Halaby, both Edinboro graduates, shared the need for Edinboro to adapt to continue expanding service to students who are differently abled and offering a quality and affordable education experience.
Pennsylvanians are encouraged to engage in the public comment period which is open through June 30. The plans and public comment submission information can be found at this link: https://www.passhe.edu/publiccomment/Pages/default.aspx.
The full hearing, agenda and testimony are available at www.pahouse.com/policy.