Over the past few months, there has been a lot of talk about a proposal put forward by the Pennsylvania state higher education system to consolidate six of its 14 universities. According to the proposal, three universities in the western part of the state – California, Clarion and Edinboro – would be consolidated into one campus, and Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield into another.

The University of California is very close to my district, and many residents attend and work at the university. In addition, many local businesses and organizations are taking the opportunity to be an integral part of our communities.

Earlier this month, I signed a letter written by my colleague, State Representative Mark Longietti, who is the Democratic Chairman of the House Education Committee, asking for a one-year delay in the implementation of the consolidation of the Pennsylvania State higher education system plan. My colleagues and I have not received enough information on this plan, and we have several unanswered questions and many concerns.

We know that PASSHE as a whole has experienced a decline in enrollment and limited public funding in recent years. Each of the universities, as reported by PASSHE, was required to develop and implement a 2025 sustainability plan, which the University of California did. That mandate changed when PASSHE asked each university to complete a 2022 sustainability plan. Again, the University of California did.

The university itself has done very well; it has increased its enrollments and is currently expected to end its budget year with a surplus of $ 5.7 million and $ 27.4 million in reserve. Compare that to Clarion, which is expected to end its fiscal year with a $ 6 million reserve deficit, and Edinboro, which faces a $ 2.3 million budget deficit and nearly $ 7 million deficit in its reserves. Nothing in PASSHE’s current Western integration plan includes a financial report, let alone cost savings or student tuition reductions. My colleagues and I are extremely concerned that this merger will have a devastating impact on current and potential students, alumni, faculty, and staff at the University of California. The proposed plan also does not specify who ultimately controls the offshore campuses, which would be created under the plan.

It also fails to include details of what PASSHE calls its hybrid model. This model would force students to take virtually an unknown number of college courses. As someone who knows first-hand the issues our communities continue to face regarding affordable and accessible broadband access, this clearly creates significant equity issues, where many students – including those in my district – will struggle. Many of us are also concerned about downsizing at the university, and if this integration plan were to be implemented, any downsizing must be minimized.

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education has remained silent on whether it will ultimately grant accreditation to this “new university” to be established under the proposed plan, and questions remain as to whether the National Collegiate Athletic Association would include him in its Division II Category.

It is imperative to preserve access to these universities and the opportunities they offer. PASSHE was created to help students and families receive a quality, affordable education, and I will do everything possible to ensure that he delivers on that promise with a plan that puts students and their families first.

State Representative Pam Snyder is serving her fifth term as representative for the 50th District of State House, which includes Greene, Fayette and Washington counties.

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