With the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s (PASSHE) recent merger of three schools – Bloomsburg, Mansfield, and Lock Haven universities, which will now makeup the Commonwealth University of Pennsylvania – the institution is now planning for their future. Unfortunately, signs of instability are beginning to show without proper investment in higher learning. Dan Greenstein, chancellor of PASSHE, has warned that the system cannot continue as it has been. He cites the glaring contradiction that exists between PASSHE schools being some of the least expensive four-year college options in the state and PASSHE students graduating at some of the highest debt rates in the nation. “We’re the most affordable four-year higher education opportunity in the state, and yet we’re pricing students out of the markets,” he has said.
With the system’s budget derived from the state government, and a complete lack of financial support by the schools low and middle income students, enrollment numbers have dropped by 25 percent, which also further exacerbates the state’s labor force shortages. Greenstein is asking the General Assembly this budget season to increase PASSHE’s funding by fifteen percent, he is also asking that $200 million be directed towards a proper student financial aid program, while reminding legislators that $150 million is still owed to the schools after being promised the previous year.
Governor Tom Wolf has expressed support for the $200 million proposal for financial aid, however, despite previous requests being rejected by the Republican-controlled legislature. Time is running short for Legislators to act as thousands of students’ futures hang in the balance, dependent on the assembly’s ability to secure proper funding.