HARRISBURG, Pa. - The head of Pennsylvania's state-owned universities is calling for drastic cuts to address financial struggles.
Chancellor Dan Greenstein wrote to university presidents this week to outline ways they can save money.
He said the universities should eliminate adjunct professors, cut programs that have low enrollment, and leave vacant faculty positions open.
He also said they need to collaborate on programs so that they don't compete against each other.
"The problem those actions seek to address is not a complicated one," said Greenstein in a blog post. "Our student enrollments are down by 20 percent, since 2010, and our staff and faculty FTE are down by only seven percent. Not a good pattern if it persists for too long in an industry where seventy-five percent of all operating costs are tied up in salary and benefits."
Greenstein also addressed in his post the recent transfer agreement Pennsylvania community colleges made with Southern New Hampshire University. He expressed concern over declining numbers of community college students transferring to state universities.
Under the deal, community college students can transfer up to 90 credits to SNHU and complete their bachelor's degree online, with a 10% tuition reduction.
While the agreement brought excitement to many enrolled or teaching at community colleges, Greenstein held a much somber outlook regarding the situation.
According to PASSHE, State System university transfers are down to around 16 percent, which Greenstein says is due to a strong economy that is drawing community college graduates into the work force rather than to a four year school.
Greenstein offered several possible solutions such as waiving on-campus residency requirements, which puts a higher price-tag on tuition. It's also suggested that the State System work more closely with community colleges in order to ensure articulation agreements are maintained, and that transfers receive the financial aid they need along with other academic resources.
"Transfer students are good students who are well prepared academically," said Greenstein. "They graduate at a slightly higher rate than students who begin as freshman at a State System university. Could we do more? Yes."
To further assist with declining transfer rates, Greenstein urged for more support for state schools establishing their own online undergraduate education. He says state schools should be offering more online-based learning in order to compete with what he calls 'big box retail-style" education providers. These include Arizona State, Liberty University, SNHU and University of Phoenix to name a few.
"How many Pennsylvanians do you think enroll each year in an online undergraduate program offered by an out-of-state university,"he asked "Nearly 43,000. Closing in on half of our enrollments."
Lastly, he brought his focus to adult education, which proposals such as the PAPromise introduced in 2018 aimed to make a high priority among other struggles with declining enrollment rates.More people are able to finish high-school, but less are enrolling in college.
Instead of aiming to increase enrollment for degree-granting programs, Greenstein says the focus should be aimed at certifications, apprenticeships, and trades in the areas of STEM, healthcare and business to help adults go back to school.
"The State System universities play a critical role as an engine of economic development and social mobility in this state," he says. "But to realize the full extent of our promise to Pennsylvania, the General Assembly and the State System mush choose, together, in partnership."