When Daniel Greenstein, chancellor of the Pennsylvania state higher education system, asked the state for a 2% funding increase last year, he was criticized by union leaders who said it was was nowhere near enough to help struggling colleges.
But Greenstein argued that the system and its universities must first downsize based on declining enrollment and put universities on a more sustainable growth path.
With both of these initiatives well underway, including a plan to merge six of its 14 universities into two, Greenstein said now is the time to ask for more from the state – a lot more.
READ MORE: Pennsylvania Universities Record Biggest Drop in One-Year Enrollment in Over a Decade
He told the system’s board of governors on Thursday that he planned to seek a 15% increase in state funding, raising the system’s annual allocation from $ 477 million to $ 550 million.
And, he also said he would advocate for the state to provide an additional $ 201 million in student financial assistance to make education more affordable for students in need, and $ 30-40 million. for debt relief for universities.
Pennsylvania currently sits near the bottom of the states for higher education funding, and the overall increase in funding would move it about average, Greenstein said.
READ MORE: Board approves controversial plan to merge six universities into two
âI can support the data, lay a hand on my heart with integrity and say yes, that’s what it costsâ¦
The average cost of attending public system schools in 2020-2021 ranged from $ 19,243 in West Chester to $ 25,714 in Indiana.
The 15% increase would come on top of the $ 200 million the legislature pledged the system over the next few years – it got the first $ 50 million this year – to help implement its merger plan.
The extra money from new applications, Greenstein said, would allow the system to keep tuition fees at the same level for the fourth year in a row and cover about 2% of the system’s inflationary costs. It’s the biggest financial boost he has asked for since becoming Chancellor in 2018.
The state’s board of governors – made up of lawmakers, businessmen, alumni and three students – unanimously approved the funding requests, with State Senator Scott Martin abstaining (R., Lancaster), who said he had a conflict of interest in that he would process funding applications as chair of the Senate Education Committee and a member of the Appropriations Committee. The funding requests sparked little discussion or questions from the 18 council members in attendance and gained approval from the other three Democratic and Republican lawmakers on the council.
âI support this absolutely because of the direct support for students,â said State Representative Tim Briggs (D., Montgomery). âWe must do all we can as a Commonwealth to help them with the uncompetitive level of education that we have been forced to impose on them. “
Jamie Martin, president of the teachers’ union, was delighted to hear how much the system would charge.
“I wish it had happened sooner,” she said, adding that if the state had kept pace with inflationary increases, the system would receive $ 750 million. “But I think any investment in our students is a step forward in making university more affordable for them.”
The requests come as the system this week announced another drop in enrollments, its biggest drop in a year in more than a decade. The system of 88,651 students has lost nearly 26% of enrollments since 2010. Greenstein noted that the system has cut its operating budget by about $ 180 million and employs about 19% fewer faculty since joining.
In a bid to call on the state to make a larger investment, system officials released a report on Wednesday that showed 63% of its Pennsylvania graduates remained in the state a decade later, earning a median income of 54. $ 708.
Three in four students from underrepresented minority groups from the poorest households did better financially 10 years after graduation, which shows the importance of education in advancing social mobility, system officials said.
Looking at graduates of all groups after 10 years, there is a gap of just over $ 8,700 between those from lower income families and those from families with over 150 $ 000.
âThis type of mobility is not easy to find,â said Greenstein.
The board also heard an update this week on its efforts on diversity, equity and inclusion. A third-party vendor will administer the first system-wide climate survey in January of students, faculty and staff, trying to assess how different groups experience universities, said Denise Pearson, vice-chancellor and director of DCI.
âThis is an important first step towards improving the climate on campuses,â she said.
The system also plans to hold a virtual diversity summit from November 3-5, to which more than 700 people have already signed up, she said.
Also at the board meeting, the system unveiled the new names of the three universities – Clarion, California and Edinboro – which will be merged in the west: Pennsylvania Western University, Penn West for short. All three will retain their campuses and will be known as Penn West in Clarion, Penn West in California, and Penn West in Edinboro.