State System problems get worse

Summary: Problems at Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) continue to get worse. In May 2018, Policy Brief Vol. 18, No. 20, detailed enrollment losses through school year 2016-17 and discussed studies of the system’s problems and suggested solutions. Recently, several legislative proposals aimed at helping PASSHE deal with its severe problems have been presented.

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Enrollment

There is little doubt that for several of the universities in the 14-university system dramatic changes are needed. Since peaking in 2010 at 119,513, system enrollment has declined continuously to reach 95,494 in the fall of 2019. This loss of 24,019 students amounts to a 20 percent drop.  But that figure does not capture the whole story. There are very large differences in the enrollment losses among the universities. Note that West Chester, which now has the biggest student count at 17,691, has added 3,210 since 2010. Slippery Rock has seen enrollment remain essentially flat over the period.

All other schools have lost at least 10 percent.  Three schools—Millersville (10), Bloomsburg (14), and East Stroudsburg (16)—had the smallest percentage losses.  Three schools had losses in the 20 to 30 percent range (California and Shippensburg at 27; Kutztown at 23).  Two schools suffered losses of 30 to 40 percent—Indiana, 32 percent (the system’s biggest student number drop at 4,778) and Clarion, 36 percent.  Meanwhile, enrollment at two universities fell 40 to 50 percent—Edinboro, 46 percent (3,996 students) and Lock Haven, 42 percent. Finally, two universities lost over 50 percent of their enrollment—Mansfield, 51 percent and Cheyney, 61 percent.

Taken together, the schools with over 20 percent enrollment losses account for 23,687 or 87 percent of the actual decline in enrollment of 27,200 at the schools with declining enrollment. West Chester’s gain holds the system’s net loss to 24,019. 

Obviously, schools with 20 percent or more in student count losses face enormous difficulties. Schools with declines of 35 percent or more face extraordinary difficulties. How do they maintain economically justifiable class sizes or degree programs? How do they cope with all the surplus infrastructure—classrooms, dorm rooms, etc.? How do they handle layoffs of redundant faculty? How many doctoral or masters programs are at risk? Indeed, how can university status be maintained for schools that have lost 40 percent or more of students and are still shrinking?

Beyond the enormous problems many of the schools have with massive losses of students, PASSHE as a whole has developed major financial difficulties resulting not only from the enrollment issue but also from overly generous compensation packages for employees.  Then, too, a tightening of Governmental Accounting Standards Board (GASB) reporting requirements now shows the true level of financial difficulties PASSHE faces.

Assets and liabilities

The most definitive and succinct indicator of what has happened financially is the statement of net position—the difference between total assets and total liabilities. Note that all PASSHE financial data in this report are taken from audited financial statements for fiscal years ending on June 30 of each year cited (available online). Between 2010 and 2019, the aggregated system’s net position dropped precipitously from around zero to a negative $1.6 billion. In 2010 the reported net position was positive.  But it did not include the pension liability of around $700 million as required by GASB beginning in 2015. When the pension liability was not accounted for in 2010 there was a positive net position of $687 million.  

Liabilities climbed from $2.072 billion in 2010 (in which pension liability was not counted) to $5.460 billion in 2019. Every category of liabilities rose over the period including workers’ compensation and compensated absences.  The massive $3.3 billion jump was due in large part to the required inclusion of pension liabilities that had risen from about $700 million (based on reported net assets) in 2010 to $1.108 billion in 2019, a jump of nearly 60 percent.

Meanwhile, other post-retirement benefits (OPEB) liabilities rocketed from $723 million to $1.977 billion, a spectacular near tripling of that liability. Bond debt increased 40 percent from $825 million to $1.155 billion during the nine-year period.  The “other” liabilities more than doubled from $404 million to $1.070 billion.   

Obviously, given the decline in enrollment, on a per-student basis, the increases in liabilities are even worse than the percentages shown above. Note, too, that assets grew substantially from $2.760 billion to $3.850 billion from 2010 to 2019, a $1.09 billion (or 39 percent) gain, leaving a negative gap of $1.6 billion compared to liabilities. The nine-year period reflects an increase in assets, other than capital assets, of $600 million to reach $1.308 billion and an increase in capital assets, net of depreciation, of $655 million to stand at $2.016 billion in 2019.

The depreciated value of buildings and improvements jumped from $1.051 billion to $1.654 billion (a 60 percent rise) to account for most of the rise in capital assets.  The large rise in the value of buildings helps the balance sheet.  But with enrollment down 20 percent overall and much more at half the schools, all the new building is a financial disaster.   

Revenue and spending

System revenue was fairly flat from 2010 to 2019, rising from $1.903 billion to $2.104 billion, an increase of 10 percent in nine years. Operating revenue over the nine years rose from $1.301 to $1.386 billion, a rise of just 6.5 percent.  The largest component of operating revenue in 2019 was student tuition and fees (61 percent) with grants and auxiliary enterprises making up most of the rest. The bulk of non-operating revenue is derived from state appropriations (68 percent) with gifts and other sources making up 25 percent.

Total expenses grew from $1.859 billion in 2010 to $2.125 billion in 2019, a rise of 14.3 percent. Employee expenses (salaries and benefit payments) climbed from $1.248 billion to $1.388 billion during the nine years, an increase of 11 percent. This, while enrollment was falling 20 percent. Non-personnel outlays climbed from $611 million to $737 million, reflecting increases in interest payment and losses, depreciation and auxiliary enterprises. On a mildly positive note, expenses hit their high point in 2017 at $2.196 billion and fell slightly in 2018 and 2019.  

In short, PASSHE as a whole has severe financial issues related to declining enrollment that affects the ability to grow revenue through student charges and state appropriations for operations because student counts have fallen, substantially and dramatically, at some schools. Raising tuition becomes self-defeating when demand is falling.  The university system’s overall financial picture has worsened substantially because of accounting requirements and growth in employee benefits especially retirement benefits and continued pay increases. 

Employment

Aggregate employment—full time and part time—at the 14 schools has fallen 12.0 percent from 2010 through the 2018-19 school year. Faculty—full and part time—fell 12.6 percent over the nine years with full time down only 9.5 percent. Bear in mind that enrollment is down 20 percent while salaries and benefit payments are up 11 percent and liabilities for pensions and OPEB are up 53 percent and 174 percent, respectively.  Note that layoffs are strictly based on seniority. Newer faculty members with lower salaries are let go first regardless of ability to teach, part-time faculty has been reduced by 20 percent and annual pay increases continue based on union contracts.  All this combines to push costs higher despite the payroll count reductions.

What to do?

Legislation has been proposed to deal with the system’s severe problems while it endeavors to come up with ways under existing legislation to deal with shrinking enrollment. The most promising proposal, if passed, would give the PASSHE board the ability to close or combine schools.  Most of the other actions being developed or approved will do little to deal with the problems created by faculty unions whose powers cripple management prerogatives and, with the threat of strikes, push contractual compensation costs upward continuously in the face of the system enrollment declines and very large declines at half the schools. 

The Legislature must recognize the surplus of state-supported university capacity. With Penn State’s enrollment of over 74,000—not including professional schools or online students—Temple at nearly 40,000 and Pitt and its affiliated campuses at 34,000 students, these three state-related schools have more enrollment than all the PASSHE schools combined. And all push hard to sustain enrollment in an environment that is increasingly competitive because of falling high school graduate counts.

Moreover, there are many private schools, large and small, competing for many of the same students, not to mention schools in other states. The Legislature also must recognize the importance of union-free faculties.  Unions are inimical to containing costs, education excellence and management prerogatives such as hiring decisions and layoffs.    

Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education should be moving to combine the smaller failing schools, including Cheyney, with other schools. It should also contemplate letting West Chester go its own way and any other school that feels it can make it as a free-standing university. As of now, the high acceptance rates and dropout rates and low graduation rates after six years at several schools are simply not what taxpayers should be supporting.

It is time for the Legislature and the governor to address these problems head-on.

State University System Requires Major Legislative Remedial Actions

Summary: The 14 state-owned universities that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) face enormous difficulties.  The problems have been well documented by two previous Allegheny Institute Policy Briefs from 2017 and two major studies, the first by National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) and the second by the Rand Corporation.  This Brief goes into more depth regarding the financial situation, costs and performance than the Rand and NCHEMS studies and offers suggestions for addressing the problems. Legislative actions regarding faculty unions and degree offerings among the schools should be at the top of the list.

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At the top of the list of its woes, PASSHE schools have seen a near steady decline in total enrollment (undergraduate and graduate) since the 2010-11 academic year, with only Slippery Rock and West Chester seeing an enrollment increase. All data cited in this Brief are published by the Joint State Government Commission in its 2017 and 2018 reports on PASSHE schools and state-related universities. Enrollment figures show the system lost 14,814 (13.2 percent) fulltime equivalent students (FTE) from 2010-2011 to the 2016-17 academic year to stand at 97,512. The 12 schools with declining FTE since the 2010-11 academic year saw their count slide 17,033 or 18.9 percent. Cheyney’s 40 percent and Mansfield’s 34.6 percent plunge along with Clarion’s 29 percent dive led the percentage declines.  Declines in five of the other schools were in the 20 percent range.

Note that the western PA universities in California, Clarion, Edinboro and Indiana had a combined six-year  drop of 8,200 FTE students —almost half of the combined losses at the 12 schools with declining enrollment. These four western schools, along with Slippery Rock, have student drawing areas that overlap substantially.

The numbers for undergraduate students are even worse than the total enrollment figures. Only West Chester had a gain over the period while Bloomsburg and Slippery Rock had minimal declines. But FTE count at the other 11 schools fell a total of 21.8 percent led by Cheyney’s 40 percent drop, followed by Clarion, Edinboro, Lock Haven and Mansfield at 25 percent or more.

And for the future the situation gets worse because projections of high school graduates from most areas of the state—the overwhelming sources of enrollees at PASSHE schools—show a long term declining trend from current levels.  In short, the enrollment problem for the schools already suffering major declines is going to get worse. And the truly excruciating dilemma:  as enrollment falls, it gets ever harder to maintain degree programs and course offerings and the best faculty begin to seek alternative employment, making the schools increasingly less attractive to potential students. In sum, several PASSHE schools are facing a self-reinforcing downward spiral.

Note too that several schools are facing the additional problem of having major drops in the number of students from the lower division compared to the upper division.  Bloomsburg’s ratio of upper division count to lower division is lowest at 42 percent. Several others are well under 50 percent. By contrast, Slippery Rock and West Chester ratios are 64 and 65 percent, respectively.   The inability to retain students points to even greater problems in the future as potential freshman enrollees from Pennsylvania continue to decline.

And adding to the crisis—and embarrassment—for the PASSHE schools, enrollment at Penn State has continued to grow climbing by 11,160 or 14 percent over the last five years. Temple FTE is up 2,692 or 7.8 percent. Enrollments at Pittsburgh and Lincoln are essentially flat.  In sum, the state-related schools (Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln) have added almost as many students as the combined 14 state-owned schools lost.

Faced with their severe enrollment problems, several PASSHE universities have adopted very lax entrance requirements, accepting virtually everyone who applies.  This clearly aggravates the dropout problem as well as imposing needless costs on students and taxpayers.

Meanwhile, during the same period in which the FTE student count fell 18.9 percent at the 12 universities that lost students, total instructional staff, including full time faculty, adjuncts and graduate assistants at these schools, fell just 6.3 percent from 4,429 to 4,152. This does not bode well for cost per student.

Compounding the unfavorable comparisons with state-related schools, class sizes are smaller and faculty cost per student higher at the state-owned universities than at the state-related schools (Penn State, Pittsburgh, Temple and Lincoln). For purposes of the class size and faculty cost comparisons, Lincoln and Cheyney are excluded because of their very small size relative to the other schools in their group and their being far outside the norm for their groups’ class size and cost statistics.

For lower division students, as classified by the Joint State Government Commission report (presumably mostly freshman and sophomore), average class size at state-owned schools was 29 students. At the state-related schools the average was 31. For upper division students the PASSHE schools’ classes averaged 19 students per while state-related universities averaged 25.

At the same time, faculty costs per student at the PASSHE schools are on average slightly higher for lower division students compared to state-related schools ($3,076 to $2,850). There is a wide variation in costs in the state-owned schools, ranging from $2,500 to $4,000. Most of the schools (excluding Cheyney) are close to $3,000 or a little higher. For upper division students the average faculty costs per student were much higher at the PASSHE schools than at the state-related schools, $5,409 compared to $3,932.

Employee costs other than wages and salaries are also quite high for the combined State System schools.  In the year ended June 30, 2016, non-salary costs were $523 million, equal to 59 percent of the $880 million paid in salaries and wages. For 2014, the percentage was 52 percent. The two year increase was due to a $72.6 million or 80 percent jump in pension payments by the universities. This was necessary to cover the leap in the employer match requirement for SERS and PSERS. Then too, combined employee and retiree health expenditures were $253 million, equal to 29 percent of salary cost in the year ended June 2016.

Plainly stated, faculty cost efficiency in terms of class size and cost per student in the PASSHE schools are on average no bargain compared to the state-related schools with their many satellite campuses.  This is opposite of the situation one would have expected.

And as far as the funding argument is concerned, bear in mind that state instructional appropriations per student in the 2016-17 academic year were much higher for PASSHE schools than for the state-related schools ($4,504 compared to $3,292). Per student state appropriations ranged from a high of $16,839 at Cheyney to a low of $3,400 at West Chester.  Meanwhile for the state-related schools, Lincoln got the largest per-FTE appropriation with $7,581 and Penn State the lowest at $2,540.

Clearly, in light of these data most PASSHE schools face severe financial and enrollment problems. Two recent studies looked at the schools to determine the problems and how to fix them. The NCHEMS report from July 2017 presented a description of the problems at the schools but failed to offer any real solutions.  Indeed, the report amazingly identified the root cause as “inadequacies of the governance structure for coping with converging pressures.”

Moreover, NCHEMS made two astoundingly counterproductive recommendations.  One; “No institution should be closed and there should be no mergers of any institutions. Second; (make) “no attempt to undermine collective bargaining agreements or processes.” This after noting that the just-signed faculty union contract calls for $52 million more compensation than the old contract for the already cash strapped university system. In short, the NCHEMS report was essentially useless from a solutions standpoint.

Recently, a Rand Corporation report commissioned by the Legislative Budget and Finance Committee was released.  The report reviewed the enrollment decline as well as the governance issues explored by NCHEMS. However, Rand offers some pointed criticism of the recently approved faculty union contract and provides five options for reorganizing the PASSHE schools.

According to Rand, “Interviewees noted that factors contributing to this strained (union –management) relationship include the contract provisions and their enactment, as well as the collective bargaining agreement negotiation process.”

Faculty salary scale and assignment restraints were of particular concern, first, “The current scale is uniform, does not take disciplines into account, and does not allow for market-based adjustment” and second, “faculty cannot be required to teach online classes unless it is in their letter of appointment.”

And there are more provisions that are beyond understanding; two stand out. “Institutions cannot hire new faculty without the approval of all faculty in the department. And “Institutions cannot retain highly rated faculty over more-senior faculty.” Little wonder university officials view these restrictions as both costly and an obstacle to efforts to do needed restructuring of academic programs.

In general, the contract’s provisions make it hard or impossible to use managerial discretion to undertake cost savings, to hire the best people in some fields, change course delivery methodologies and to move personnel to the institution’s greatest advantage.

Rand proposed five options for dealing with the management structure issues as well as the underlying enrollment issues.  These include the following from the report:

  • Option 1: Keep Broad State System Structure, Including Current Individual Universities, but with Improvements
  • Option 2: Keep Broad State System Structure with Improvements Accompanied by Regional Mergers of Universities
  • Option 3: Merge State System Universities and Convert to State-Related Status
  • Option 4: Place the State System Under the Management of a State-Related University
  • Option 5: Merge State System Universities into State-Related Universities.

Obviously, each of these options would require a lot of legislative changes in terms of the governance structure. Those involving mergers of schools would also require legislation to specify which schools would be merged, what the new names would be and the process for handling personnel and programs changes necessary to accomplish the mergers.

There is little chance of folding PASSHE schools into the state-related schools.  That would almost certainly require closures of several schools in order to reduce overlapping student feeder regions. Then, too, the absence of labor bargaining agreements at Penn State and the University of Pittsburgh—despite ongoing union organizing efforts—would make integration extraordinarily difficult.  Pay scale differences and faculty limitations on management would create insurmountable obstacles.

Notwithstanding the difficulties of closing or merging one or more of the PASSHE schools, it is clear that major actions need to be taken.

Even though it will be politically difficult, the Legislature must do what is best for the state’s taxpayers and the education of its students.

First, it should take away the right to strike of employees at state-funded institutions and outlaw provisions in contracts that require using seniority over excellence in layoff decisions. Second, recognize that Cheney and perhaps Mansfield with their enormous declines in enrollment are far too small to offer adequate programs to be assigned university status.  Close them or merge them with other schools.

A more promising approach to addressing the problems of most PASSHE schools would involve arranging program degree offerings among the universities in a way that would have each school achieve a level of faculty excellence and reputation in a few specific fields that would generate student interest. This would eliminate having cookie cutter duplication of degree offerings across the system. It would also limit the need for closings or mergers and would allow each school to reach an optimal size. This will present difficulties because the number of instructional staff will continue to decline with falling enrollment and some faculty might have to be reassigned to other schools.

One thing is certain; letting the system continue on its current path will waste huge amounts of money, lead to sub-optimal educational opportunities and outcomes and be a source of terrible anxiety for everyone involved.  Corrective actions by the Legislature and governor are extremely overdue.

Shortcomings in the State University System Report

Summary: On July 27, the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) released its report on the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).  The group had been asked by the 14 state owned university system to analyze its problems that for some schools have reached very serious levels. The group was also asked to offer recommendations to alleviate or solve the problems. This review of the report finds it was adequate or good in some respects but severely lacking in others.

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The NCHEMS report lays out the underlying causes of PASSHE’s serious issues including demographics and financial imbalances, but then blames it all on what the report calls a “root cause,” to wit:  “inadequacies of the governance structure for coping with converging pressures.”

To be sure, there are a lot of useful data and statistics in the report. The report points to several underlying issues that are posing enormous problems for the system and several schools in particular. These are well known but bear repeating. Enrollment (FTE) is down systemwide falling 6.8 percent from the 2009-10 school year to the 2014-15 school year.  In an earlier Policy Brief (Vol. 17, No. 13) we noted that:

Over the five academic years between 2010-2011 and 2015-2016 combined enrollment in the 14 universities fell 12,452 or 11.1 percent. All schools except West Chester experienced declines in percentage terms ranging from less than one percent at Slippery Rock to a 43 percent drop at Cheyney.  Eight schools had decreases of 15 percent or more while four saw enrollment down over 20 percent.  Mansfield and Clarion recorded huge losses with enrollment down just shy of 30 percent.

 In terms of numbers of students, the 13 schools with declining enrollment had an average loss of 1,100 FTE students over the five year period. The largest losses occurred at Clarion (1,936), Indiana (1,830), California (1,559), Kutztown (1,515) and Edinboro (1,481). Enrollment at four other universities was down around a thousand students.

The later data indicate an even steeper drop than the NCHEMS report shows. The report points out that declining—and future projected decline—of Pennsylvania high school graduates are a big drain on these universities that rely extremely heavily on in-state students for their enrollment. And as we noted in the Brief, there are a large number of state-related schools (Penn State and its satellite campuses, Lincoln, Pitt and Temple with their satellite campuses) as well as many private colleges in Pennsylvania competing for these graduates as well.

Two additional important and relevant measures are included in the report.  First, spending per student (FTE) has risen dramatically in the schools with the largest enrollment decreases, including five that are up more than 20 percent—Shippensburg, Mansfield, Millersville, Clarion (almost 30 percent) and Cheyney (over 30 percent).   Slippery Rock, Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, Indiana, West Chester and East Stroudsburg held spending growth to five percent or less.  What is more interesting and not mentioned in the NCHEMS report but cited in our March Brief is that “for upper division students the PASSHE schools have substantially greater faculty costs per FTE student than the state related schools ($5,055 vs $4,167).”

Second, the report comments on the pervasiveness of very small class sizes. Fourteen percent of lower division course have fewer than 10 students and many classes have four or fewer. Meanwhile 41.5 percent of upper division courses have fewer than 10 students and 30 percent had fewer than five. And when compared to the state–related schools, the March Brief noted that “there is a large gap in (average) class size for upper division students; PASSHE 19, state-related 27.”

Obviously, the spending and class size findings are connected. The NCHEMS report speculates that there are far more faculty positions at PASSHE schools than current enrollment can justify. It is especially noteworthy that it costs these schools more to teach upper division students than it costs the state related schools, two of which are far more prestigious universities (Penn State and Pitt).

Another key finding of the report is that the latest collective bargaining agreement (arrived at under strike duress) was far too generous. It calls for $52 million dollars more compensation than under the old contract, a figure that the cash-strapped schools can clearly not afford.

NCHEMS also noted there is a lot of distrust among the various stakeholder groups, students, faculty and administration and among the institutions themselves.

The report states in the introduction, “the State System’s institutions individually and collectively face a fiscal future made bleak by converging challenges.” Chiefly, the demographic changes and financial problems.

NCHEMS’ explanations for some of the system’s problems are primarily focused on governance issues and make several recommendations that contain very few clear cut action steps. A lot of governmentese-sounding items such as “adopt a strategic financing model that is better fit for varied circumstances,” or “reorient the Board and Office of Chancellor toward greater responsibility for policy leadership.”  “Retain and ensure sustainability.”  And on and on like that.  Some specificity as “steps to take” would be good.

One of the report’s biggest problems is the list in a section called “what not to do.” These include:  “No institution should be closed; no mergers of any institutions; no attempt to undermine collective bargaining agreements or processes.”

In other words, some of the dramatic actions needed to create a more robust and viable system are off the table, including taking a harder stance toward the faculty union. The union went on strike in 2016, the first time in the 34 year history of the system.  University faculty strikes are extremely rare in the U.S.  A Google search reveals that most have occurred in California with two in New York, Springfield, Ill., and Green River College in Washington State, basically over the period form the late 1960s. Several have happened in Canada.  Once a strike works to get better wages and benefits along with more favorable work rules and intrusion into management prerogatives, it is reasonable to expect more at the state system and other schools as well.

Public employees should not have the right to strike, period. It leads to all sorts of fiscal problems as we see in heavily unionized states all across the country. Faculty strikes at a college or university, like public school strikes, will happen during the school year.  It makes no sense for the faculty to go out when there are no classes to disrupt.   As insidious as public school strikes are, university faculty strikes are even worse because of the hardships and anxiety imposed on students.  Public university faculty should never be allowed to strike during the academic year. It is a moral failing of the state to permit state employees to create financial and undue academic stress on students. If faculty members are unhappy enough to walk off the job, they should find a new job. There are plenty of people who would take the positions vacated.

Unfortunately, in Pennsylvania that Rubicon has been crossed and the chances of returning to a non-unionized faculty are nil. It is now, and will be, one of the largest obstacles to solving financial and other problems.

Finally, there are two glaring omissions in the report.  First, the study team completely neglected to report on the declining or non-existent entrance requirements at some of the 14 schools.  Accepting graduates who performed poorly in high school and on college entrance exams in hopes they can do college level work is the height of folly. It requires many students to attend remedial classes. It leads to downgrading the rigor of college courses and leads to lower standards. It lengthens the time to graduate and is accompanied by high dropout rates.  It wastes a lot of time, it causes students to incur debt they cannot repay, and it wastes tax dollars spent subsidizing students who have no business being in college.

Nor was there any follow through to see what kind of jobs graduates from the 14 PASSHE schools were able to get and how much starting salary they received. Those data are available.

The situation at Cheyney, which is a calamity, is not dealt with except indirectly in the recommendation not to close or merge any of the 14 institutions. Enrollment at the school has fallen by half since 2007 to stand at just over 700 students.  It ranked last of 106 institutions in PA for graduation in four years (about 10 percent). It receives $18,000 per student in state support, far more than the other 14 schools and three times the amount the commonwealth spends per student for K-12 students. By any standard, academic or financial, Cheyney is a failed institution.  But there is no recommendation in NCHEMS report on how to deal with that school.

Other schools such as Clarion and Mansfield have seen enrollments drop precipitously over the last five years, falling around 30 percent. Not surprisingly, the costs per student have jumped sharply.

In the face of further declines in high school graduates in Pennsylvania and the intensification of competition for these students, there ought to be some specificity in the study as to how the growing difficulties at several schools should be dealt with.   It will take far more than recommendations such as “recommitting to a robust shared governance process.”  Indeed, downsizing, mergers, reorganizations of degree offerings and tighter entrance requirements should clearly be on the table.

The solutions for these problems will almost certainly have to be dealt with legislatively. There is no way the PASSHE governance can or will take the dramatic steps necessary to right size the system or insure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely unless ordered to so.  Of course, this will be comparable to military base closing at the federal level. It will be very hard. But until they are remedied, the PASSHE problems will fester and grow worse with more inter institutional rancor and more calls for tax dollars.

Sadly, like the pension problem, this problem will in all likelihood get “kicked down the road.”