It looks like SIX state universities in Pennsylvania will be consolidating into two

July 16 – In a relatively big announcement from PASSHE (Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education) Wednesday, the board voted to close six of the state-run universities in PA and consolidate them into two regional campuses.

Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield will combine into one regional campus and California University of PA, Clarion and Edinboro will combine into one regional campus.

Talk had started years ago about the PASSHE system, of which Shippensburg University is a part, that some of the universities were becoming bloated and marginal and just not solvent anymore. It was taking more and more money to keep them afloat.

The new president of PASSHE came in, brought in a consultant who recommended actually closing a few of the colleges and here we are.

Attorney Clint Barkdoll, Pat Ryan and Michele Jansen discussed PASSHE’s announcement Thursday morning during the Big Talk on First News.

Barkdoll said, “This is a big story and it will affect a lot of local families and students. They are also eliminated more than 1500 jobs. These are all state employees. These will be major cost savings to the commonwealth.”

The plan is for this to take effect next year, so this will be the final school year that those six universities will operate independently.

Barkdoll said, “Next year those six will disappear and will be replaced by two regional colleges.”

It’s uncertain whether the campuses will be completely shut down once the consolidation takes place. There will be only one administrator to oversee the two regional universities, so a lot of admin jobs will disappear.

For now they would keep the campuses in existence to operate some classes and maybe even housing.

In the future they may close them and make it just one truly regional campus.

Jansen pointed out, “It was a unanimous vote. I’m suspicious as to how this will actually be done and what are they offering the people that are leaving? I’m just skeptical that they would make a very business decision that really works out for tax payers.”

Ryan wondered, “Are teachers going to sue? Are admin going to turn around and start suing people? Is it said and done? You can make all the votes you want on the board here. I can already smell the lawsuits.”

Barkdoll said, “There was major opposition to this by various people as you may imagine. Not only people in these local communities where these campuses are located but by faculty, students, alumni.”

While it was a unanimous vote, some officials at PASSHE said they were doing it reluctantly.

Barkdoll said, “There could be lawsuits to the extent some of these 1500 plus positions are eliminated. Are some of them union? Are they contractual? What will the severance look like? Might they try to sue?”

The bottom line here is that PASSHE is the governing board and they have the authority to do this.

Barkdoll said, “I think this will stand. They will prevail. I think you’re right. We need to keep an eye on what do some of these payouts look like. There could be some heartburn short term on what these payouts look like, but over the long term, it looks like this will save a lot of money to the state of Pennsylvania.”

Jansen said, “Well here’s this little sentence, though. This integration will not happen overnight. PASSHE said new organizational charts are expected to be release in the coming months and it said they will continue to provide incentives with retirements and does not anticipate a lot of layoffs.”

A lot remains to be seen following this announcement.

Barkdoll said, “Part of the problem was there were duplications of programs at these campuses, some of which were not getting a lot of students enrolled. So it seems to me that if just on programming for example if they consolidate a major to one campus, that they would have to eliminate some of those faculty and staff positions. The initial report had the number of 1,531 is what PASSHE estimated the eliminated positions would be. But as we know the way government operates, these things are always subject to change and it may not be as good as it appears when this thing gets fully implemented next year.”