Report urges Pennsylvania to reconsider college governance models
- A new report from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems says significant changes in the governing and financing models of Pennsylvania’s 14 state colleges and universities are necessary in the face of declining enrollment, though it stops short of suggesting that any schools should be closed or merged, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports.
- The report suggests that the state abolish the school system’s board of governors for a less political board of regents, and that it should create a body concerning funding that would apply to all schools in the state.
- The report also recommends that some schools in the worst financial shape “share administrative functions,” which could indicate staff reductions, and nearly all of the schools in the system have seen enrollment declines, with the system as a whole declining by 12% since its 120,000-student high in 2010.
Pennsylvania is not the only state suffering budget and governing woes in its public university system, nor is it the only state where there are calls to consolidate and transform the governing bodies of those institutions. A recent Chicago Tribune article suggested that Illinois’ state government could centralize oversight of its system, which had nine governing boards controlling 12 schools. Placing more regulatory authority in a centralized body could lead to more accountability for schools suffering from extreme financial and enrollment turmoil, the Tribune asserted.
However, areas like Pennsylvania face significant enrollment challenges that are not affecting other regions of the country as harshly. The Northeast is facing a situation where the number of high school graduates is declining, leaving fewer potential student applicants within the region choosing from the same number of schools with open availability. Despite the avoidance of specifically considering merging schools in the new report, public colleges and universities are increasingly considering the prospect of combining administrative functions, which could subsequently cut costs. School leaders should pre-emptively consider what the impact on their schools could be in the event of consolidation in order to ensure students and educators would be damaged as little as possible.
- Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Report urges overhaul of troubled State System universities