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Ten Pa. liberal arts colleges to collaborate on cost savings

With an $800,000 grant, 10 Pa. colleges will collaborate on several areas, including study abroad, library resources and staff training, designed to save money and improve offerings.

As pressure to control tuition costs mounts, 10 private liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania are creating a consortium to save money and improve offerings by collaborating on staff training, course offerings, study abroad, library resources and other areas.

The new Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts, which involves Bryn Mawr, Haverford, Swarthmore and Ursinus colleges locally, will be funded with a three-year, $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. Other colleges involved include: Dickinson in Carlisle, Franklin & Marshall in Lancaster, Gettysburg, Juniata in Huntingdon, Muhlenberg in Allentown and Washington & Jefferson in Washington.

"Liberal arts colleges across the country face serious challenges -- shifting demographics, student access, affordability and the pressure to keep up with new technology," Tori Haring-Smith, president of Washington & Jefferson College, said in a press release. "Bringing Pennsylvania liberal arts colleges into a consortium helps us leverage our collective strengths to better serve our students."

The colleges will explore seven areas: academic program improvement; faculty development; study abroad; library resources; administrative services; compliance and risk management and enhancing diversity.

The colleges may use teleconferencing to offer courses that are under enrolled at one or more of the schools. Juniata, Gettysburg and Washington & Jefferson are planning to offer a joint language course.

They also will look at joint purchasing and services, such as improving security in their information technology systems, and share expertise on risk management and other areas. They're planning to offer joint training for faculty and administrators on race, gender, class and sexual orientation issues.

In addition to collaborating, the colleges also through the consortium plan to add their voices to national discussions on improving access and affordability.

Ursinus President Bobby Fong welcomed the opportunity to be involved in the consortium.

"The undergraduate experience at Ursinus and other liberal arts colleges offers to all students strong faculty relationships, opportunities for original research, internships to apply classroom learning, and leadership opportunities on campus and in the community," he said in a statement.  "These experiences lead to greater engagement after graduation, whether in a job, advanced study, or public service. We hope that our consortial efforts and collaborative programming will further  strengthen the education we offer our students."