To save money at a time when schools are under increasing financial strain, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) has proposed merging six of its 14 universities into two new institutions to “put the schools on a path to growth and financial sustainability.”
On Monday, PASSHE released a 400-page report on the proposed consolidation of California, Clarion, and Edinboro universities in the west into one institution and Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield universities in the northeast into a second institution.
The board of governors will meet on Wednesday to discuss the plan and begin a 60-day period of public discussion. A final vote is scheduled for July, with implementation beginning in 2022 if the plan passes.
‘Beginning of the Journey’
The state higher education system, which has been facing declining enrollment over the last decade, has warned that without consolidation it could have to close some campuses. If the plan receives the go-ahead, Pennsylvania will join states such as Vermont and Oregon that announced similar mergers earlier this year.
Through reductions in leadership, management, and support staff, the consolidation would save PASSHE $18.4 million over five years.
“It is the beginning of the journey, and one, through the experience of building the work included here, that we have every confidence will be successful,” Chancellor Daniel Greenstein said.
However, system officials believe there would be initial costs and risks associated with almost every step of the move. The planned merger, which will look at virtually every area of operation, does not detail how many positions or employees are expected to be cut through the consolidation.
Despite initial risks, the merger would “reduce the total average cost of degree attainment by as much as 25 percent.”
Speaking about what the new campuses would be called, state system officials said the integrated university will have a new name that is yet to be determined. “Each campus’ local identity and brand will be maintained, regardless of the final integrated university name,” state system officials told Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.