Inquirer staff writer Susan Snyder reports:

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which runs 14 state universities including West Chester and Cheyney, announced today that it would leave 128 of its 13,000 positions vacant for the remainder of the fiscal year and freeze the salaries of all non-union employees for at least six months.

The unfilled positions range from vice presidents to maintenance workers, with most of them in the administrative area. No faculty positions are involved, and searches there for open positions will continue, officials said. The universities will be permitted to hire faculty where needed.

"This action is necessary in light of current economic conditions facing both PASSHE and the Commonwealth," system Chancellor John C. Cavanaugh said in a prepared statement.

The system in October agreed to a request by Gov. Rendell to return $22 million or about 4.25 percent of its annual state funding appropriation to help the state deal with a budget shortfall.

The salary freeze will affect approximately 1,500 managers, administrators and other non-union employees across the system.

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