WEST CHESTER (June 25, 2020) – State Senator Andy Dinniman said that he was pleased by the final outcome of legislation passed this week that will reorganize the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) that passed the legislature this week.
House Bill 2171, which represents some of the most significant changes ever made to the 1982 law that created the state system, is now before the governor.
It would allow the sharing of services and mutual affiliations among those PASSHE institutions facing enrollment challenges and other difficulties while at the same time protecting those with strong enrollment, such as West Chester University.
Dinniman, minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, explained his biggest fear was any reorganization legislation that would lessen the academic and financial strength of West Chester University by forcing its affiliation with other institutions.
As a result, he formed a bipartisan team including Senator Wayne Langerholc, majority chair of the Senate Education Committee; Robert “Tommy” Tomlinson, a West Chester University alum and trustee; and Senator Scott Martin to amend the bill when it came to the Senate Education Committee and full senate.
As a result, Dinniman said West Chester University and Indiana University of Pennsylvania, the two largest schools in the system, were waived from having to accept shared services or forced affiliation. Other PASSHE schools would also have the ability to decline such measure by a two-thirds vote of their councils of trustees and further negotiations.
“We succeeded in strengthening the role of local councils of trustees and increasing legislative oversight of the reorganizational process that will be initiated by the PASSHE chancellor and board of governors,” Dinniman said. “The amendment also protects any weakening of academic quality and strength of West Chester University by exempting it from shared service and affiliations.”
Dinniman said the amendment was drafted in consultation with several stakeholders, including West Chester University President Christopher Fiorentino, the Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties (APSCUF), and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME).
“House Bill 2171 puts the system in a stronger position to address the major challenges related to changing demographics and financial difficulties exacerbated by the uncertainty of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Fiorentino said. “The legislation provides a path for the universities in the system to continue to provide education opportunities relevant to changing the workforce needs of our time and into the future.”
In a letter to stakeholders and legislators before the vote, Dr. Jamie Martin APSCUF President wrote, “We strongly urge you to support HB 2171 as amended.”
APSCUF represents faculty members at PASSHE’s 14 member institutions, Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities.
“PASSHE is one of the Commonwealth’s great treasures,” Dinniman said. “House Bill 2171 demonstrates that the legislature is working to strengthen the system during a period of declining enrollment and in which financial difficulties have been worsened by the COVID pandemic. The goal is to ensure that the system can provide quality educational opportunities at the lowest possible cost.”