Kevin Hensil: PASSHE continues system overhaul with funding update that supports students and universities

The editorial “Funding formula is PaSSHE pipe dream” (June 20, TribLIVE) is built on a misunderstanding of a new formula for distributing public funds among public universities. The editorial suggests that the formula is not viable without increased state funding. Although formula and funding are separate issues, to be clear, Nope funding formula will work without sufficient funding.

The Pennsylvania State Higher Education System (PASSHE) has repeatedly stated that the current level of state funding is unsustainable. The need for additional public investment in public universities does not change with or without the new formula. No matter how PASSHE slices the funding pie with a formula, the pie has to get bigger.

A little context can be helpful. The national trend of declining college enrollment combined with lagging state funding — Pennsylvania ranks 46th in the nation for investment in four-year public universities — has forced problematic increases in tuition from ten years ago, which further reduced enrollment.

Universities in the state system remain the least expensive four-year higher education option in Pennsylvania, but it became clear that rapid change was needed to preserve access to higher education for dozens of thousands of middle- and low-income students.

In 2020, the Legislature passed Bill 50, a state law renewing its partnership with public universities. The university system would revamp itself, and the legislature and governor would provide more funding for public higher education and its students.

The state system keeps its promises with a difficult but necessary overhaul. The results are positive, with universities working with students, faculty and communities to create innovative solutions that meet all the criteria.

Today, universities don’t spend more than they earn, like families in Pennsylvania. And the system has saved $173 million and counts by cutting costs to avoid tuition increases for an unprecedented four straight years. This is a huge turnaround after years of annual tuition hikes.

The system is also working with private employers to align education programs with high-demand careers, such as STEM, health, business and education – all critical to addressing labor shortages in key industries.

The new formula is also part of the redesign. It is the result of over a year of data-driven and collaborative strategic planning. The new formula is simpler than the previous one and is primarily enrollment-based, so funding follows the student to support their education and success.

We’ve improved the way we distribute the pie, now it’s time to increase the size of the fundraising pie. Building on the overhaul, the state system made a data-driven request to the Governor and Legislature for significant additional investment in the system to address labor shortages and the urgent needs of universities.

The request includes three essential investments: First, $550 million, an increase of $72 million, to maintain the level of tuition fees for a fourth consecutive year. This would be great news for college students, 90% of whom come from Pennsylvania. Second, $201 million for student financial aid, especially important for underrepresented students in rural and urban communities. Third, at least $75 million of the remaining $150 million in federal funds earmarked for the state system to continue its robust transformation.

The bottom line is that the Pennsylvania workforce has a talent shortage and PASSHE is ready and ready to address it. As public universities, we are solely focused on providing high quality higher education to middle and low income students and upskilling or retraining workers. This creates the pipeline of job-ready workers businesses need to thrive and helps Pennsylvanians succeed in their home state.

Kevin Hensil is Director of Media Relations, Office of the Chancellor, for PASSHE.

About Barbara Johnson

Check Also

Four Pennsylvania universities reject GOP call for tuition freeze

article UNIVERSITY PARK, PA – SEPTEMBER 30: Penn State Nittany Lions cheerleaders entertain the crowds …