WEST CHESTER (February 20) – State Senator Andy Dinniman encouraged the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) to give universities the freedom to work more independently to meet financial challenges and enrollment needs at a hearing before the Senate Appropriations Committee today.MH900422590

“I am concerned by what appears to be a potential house of cards in terms of both finances and demographics,” Dinniman, who serves as minority chair of the Senate Education Committee, said. “It’s not just about making up the money; it’s about attracting more students. And I am concerned that the state system may be engaging in a one-size-fits-all approach.”

Dinniman pointed to a $60 million gap in what PASSHE officials need for  2014-2015 and the flat funding level that Governor Corbett has offered in his budget proposal. In addition, he noted that the system has experienced a drastic decline in enrollment in recent years, with only two universities (West Chester and Bloomsburg) seeing increases in students. West Chester University has seen the greatest growth in enrollment in the state system and continues to have more students apply each year than it can admit.

PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan agreed that the system has an obligation to look at “a better or different way to organize what we do and how we do it.”

Dinniman, a former West Chester University professor, also raised concerns about universities being bogged down by the system’s “centralized bureaucracy.”

Senator Robert Tomlinson, Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said universities need the freedom to work independently to meet their financial needs and those of potential students in their regions. He pointed out that some PASSHE universities have been forced to wait two to three years to update curriculum or institute popular new programs.

“What can we do to help schools meet these challenges, either by right-sizing or by giving schools, such as West Chester University, that are in demand the freedom to pursue these changes?,” asked Tomlinson, a West Chester University alumnus and current member of the West Chester University Council of Trustees.

“It is no secret that I have been working on some legislation to free up some of these things,” he added.

Dinniman has been working hand-in-hand with Tomlinson on such legislation, which would greatly benefit West Chester University.

For more information contact Senator Dinniman’s District Office at (610) 692-2112, or e-mail acirucci@pasenate.com.