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Gov. Shapiro announces vision for Pennsylvania's Higher Education

By: Adam Beam 1/30/2024

Governor Josh Shapiro, D-PA, has revealed a comprehensive blueprint for a significant transformation of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and colleges across the state.

Amid the financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, institutions within the PASSHE system, including Shippensburg University, have faced substantial setbacks. In a press release issued on Friday, Shapiro stated, “Colleges are competing with one another for limited dollars – duplicating degree programs, driving up costs, and actually reducing access. Over the past decade, PASSHE enrollment has dropped by 30 percent, and community college enrollment has decreased by 37 percent.”

Shapiro's multifaceted plan includes the expansion of schools within the PASSHE system. The proposed overhaul aims to introduce an additional 15 community colleges alongside the existing 10 state-owned universities. This would also create a new governance for the system as well.

Beyond expansion, Governor Shapiro aims to enhance affordability for students from lower-income households attending colleges in Pennsylvania. “Under the new system created by Governor Shapiro’s plan, Pennsylvanians making up to the median income will pay no more than $1,000 in tuition and fees per semester at state-owned universities and community colleges.” Additionally, Shapiro's plan proposes a $1,000 increase in PHEAA grants.

The governor also envisions a reward system for universities achieving specific milestones. “In consultation with higher education stakeholders, the Shapiro Administration will establish a predictable, performance-based funding formula that rewards public and state-related colleges and universities for achieving outcomes that benefit the Commonwealth. The formula will take into consideration factors including but not limited to increasing enrollment, the number of first-generation college students that receive credentials, and the graduation rate.”

PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein expressed support for Shapiro’s proposal, stating, “Together we can create a new, larger system with better collaboration that gives students more pathways to a degree or credential, rapidly adjusts to the changing knowledge and skills employers want, and provides the lowest-cost option for students throughout their lifetime.”

Gov. Shapiro is expected to present further investment plans for Pennsylvania's state universities and colleges during his budget address on February 6.

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