AICUP Message to Friends of Independent Higher Education
February 27, 2017

Budget Hearings Review the Status of the State System of Higher Education

Focusing on the possible $61-65 million deficit that the State System of Higher Education (SSHE) could face, Chancellor Frank Brogan testified for six hours before both the House and Senate Appropriations Committees last week.  The Governor has proposed $453 million to support the system in fiscal year 2017-18, an $8.9 million, or 2%, increase over the prior year.  This state contribution represents 27% of the SSHE budget.
Strike and Contract
Senate Education Committee Chairman John Eichelberger (R-Blair) focused on the faculty contract agreed to following a strike in Fall 2016.  Lawmakers learned that the cost of the contract settlement is $33 million for 2016-17 and $49 million for 2017-18.  The Chancellor indicated that the average salary for faculty is $85,000, with a range between $55,000 and $100,000 and work week requirements of 12 hours of teaching and 5 hours of office time. Senator Martin (R-Lancaster) questioned the cost of benefits for staff, which is 50% of salaries.  Staffing has decreased by 1,000 over the last 10 years, according to the chancellor.

State System Review by Consultants
In response to depletion of financial reserves at several universities and low enrollment (a 13-14% decrease in population), Brogan indicated that his office was in the final stages of signing a $500,000 contract with consultants for a thorough review of the system.  Metrics used in that study will include enrollment, cost/student, academic array, supply/demand gap analysis, cost per degree, diversity of population and other financial metrics.  The legislature can expect a report from the consultant by the summer, Brogan said.  Some possible changes Brogan discussed include moving away from the current “buffet” of degrees offered at the universities to more specialized curriculums, expanding programs at certain universities, like offering professional degrees, or offering unused facilities on campuses for community college satellite programs.

Recent Changes to the System
Brogan noted that two universities have already made changes.  Because of work needs in their regions, Clarion is moving toward professional studies such as nursing, accounting and teaching and California is looking to increasingly focus on technical education. The Appropriations Committees asked several questions about the system board’s approval of an $8 million line of credit for Cheyney University (a historically black college in Delaware county) to continue operation for another year. Brogan indicated that Cheyney was “insolvent by any standards and that other schools were close to insolvency.”  Brogan noted the very competitive nature of higher education in Pennsylvania.

Rep Kevin Boyle (D-Philadelphia) held up the tuition resets of La Salle University and Rosemont College as innovative price point models. Brogan acknowledged the importance of this trend. He said that the SSHE study would not only focus on the System but on the higher education landscape in Pennsylvania. As an example, he mentioned the need to consider the effect of Penn State’s 22 campuses.  In response to a question from Senator Andy Dinniman (D-West Chester), Democratic chair of the Education Committee, Brogan said “there will be no long-term financial prop-ups and that is the official position of the Board.  Everything is on the table. There are no sacred cows.” Brogan also said that the board is looking for “repointing and reinvention” instead of closures.

Questioning in the House included  safety of students, sexual harassment and assault prevention, diversity and inclusion, undocumented students status, internships and work opportunities, capital availability, marketing, affordability and debt, health care benefit changes, use of food pantries by students, and benefit of bachelor’s degrees compared to vo-tech education.

Did you know:   This week presidents of the state-related institutions (Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln) will come before the Senate Appropriations Committee and the president of PHEAA will come before the House Appropriations Committee.