HARRISBURG — The state's 2021-22 budget and the ongoing consolidation of six state-owned universities were topics for Thursday's quarterly meeting of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors.
Coinciding with that meeting was Gov. Tom Wolf's 2021-22 budget proposal, which includes the same allocation budgeted for PASSHE as was the case in 2020-21, $477 million.
"We are incredibly fortunate that the governor proposed the same funding for the state system," PASSHE spokesman David Pidgeon said Thursday. "His proposal ... comes in the middle of a pandemic when the state's economy is clearly challenged."
Pidgeon also applauded "a great partnership" the 14 PASSHE universities, including Indiana University of Pennsylvania, have with the General Assembly. And he said the State System still has much to do to align costs with revenues.
The PASSHE board also hoped that state officials would approve a five-year, $100 million request on top of that allocation, to help fund initiatives related to the ongoing System Redesign program.
"We're still seeking it," Pidgeon said.
Meanwhile, another ongoing aspect of system redesign is the integration of multiple universities as a means of expanding student opportunities.
PASSHE Chancellor Dr. Daniel Greenstein told the board that momentum is building toward a successful integration of Edinboro, Clarion and California universities in the west and Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities in the northeast.
Greenstein credited the work of more than 1,000 students, faculty, staff and volunteers, involved in 19 working groups and 216 subgroups.
“The dedication and belief of so many colleagues — students, faculty, staff, alumni, trustees, and so many more — is inspiring and propels us toward our ultimate purpose, which is to create integrated institutions that expand student opportunities and set the stage for enrollment growth,” Greenstein said.
Board of Governors Chair Cindy Shapira said nearly a thousand students, faculty, staff and community members who have been involved in System Redesign efforts.
“The challenges confronting higher education in the United States and right here in the Commonwealth require the kind of creative and bold thinking we’re seeing from the working groups,” Shapira said. “The solutions we’re pursuing will support students and the communities in which our universities operate for years to come.”
The system is moving toward presenting implementation plans to the Board of Governors at its April meeting. Meanwhile, the board has approved Bloomsburg University President Dr. Bashar Hanna to also serve as interim president of Lock Haven University.
“He has our full confidence as a leader of two campuses and as someone who can bring constituencies together in the common purpose of quality, affordable public higher education,” Shapira said.
Previously, Clarion University President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson was named to serve also as interim president of Edinboro University, effective Dec. 31.
Also Thursday, the late former Gov. Dick Thornburgh was remembered for his bringing together the 14 state-owned universities into PASSHE in 1983.
His son John Thornburgh received a resolution honoring his father for his service to the commonwealth and the creation of the State System.
"My father looked at the formation of the system as one of his signature accomplishments," said the younger Thornburgh, who has served on the Board of Governors as well as a trustee at Slippery Rock and California universities.