The decision is in: Leaders of Pennsylvania’s state university system will ask the state for up to $100 million more over the next five fiscal years to further its efforts to consolidate some services, grow others, and reap both savings and new revenue.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s board of governors unanimously approved the motion Thursday morning, one day after tabling the proposal when disagreement arose over board chair Cynthia Shapira’s suggestion to raise the amount to $300 million. State Rep. Brad Roae (R., Erie), a member of the board of governors, questioned whether his colleagues would support $300 million.
Roae voted yes on the $100 million proposal put forth Thursday by Shapira.
“It is a giant step in the right direction,” she said before the vote, which came at the end of a three-hour meeting at Kutztown University, one of the 14 schools in the system.
Under the motion, chancellor Daniel Greenstein will consider the appropriate amount to ask for each fiscal year, in consultation with board leaders.
The money will help the system develop the infrastructure for more shared services among its schools. Areas for sharing include information technology, facilities management, online learning, and services like accounts payable and human resources. The system also envisions enrolling more students through online learning and keeping more of its current students by focusing on retention.
The special funding request comes in addition to the system’s regular state funding request; it plans to ask for $487 million from the state for 2020-21, up 2%, or $9.5 million, over the current year.
Greenstein estimated the system, which operates on a $2.3 billion budget, could save and/or grow revenue by as much as $240 million over a period of years by making the changes.
“Current and future students are counting on us to make quality public higher education affordable and accessible, and today, we’ve taken extraordinary steps toward living up to that responsibility,” he said in a statement after the vote.
The moves come as the state college system continues to struggle with enrollment loss and ever-tightening finances. Earlier this month, the system announced it had sustained an additional 2.6% enrollment loss and was down to 95,802 students. Enrollment is down nearly 20% from its 2010 peak of 119,513 students.