KU President looks to calm student questions
By Justin Sweitzer
In a “State of the System” address at the end of January, PASSHE Chancellor Frank Brogan announced that the State System will undergo an extensive review at all levels to address the challenges that PASSHE universities face, including declining enrollment and reduced funding that have plagued member universities in recent years.
In his address on Jan. 26, Brogan said that PASSHE will look at all options available in deciding what’s best for the system moving forward, including potential mergers or closures. The comment alarmed many students at KU, as well as throughout the State System, leading KU President Kenneth Hawkinson to release a statement pertaining to the university’s future.
Hawkinson said discussions regarding the system’s future have been ongoing since last spring, and he assured students that he has confidence that Brogan and PASSHE’s Board of Governors will make the right decisions for the State System.
“I have full confidence that the Board of Governors and Chancellor Frank Brogan have the best interests of our system and students in mind as they prepare to consult with all stakeholders in this important initiative to deal with the financial strains on our System from rising costs and reduced resources,” Hawkinson said. “My letter to the KU community the first day of spring semester spoke of the challenges we will face in the coming months and years. Let me assure you that KU will continue its mission of providing an affordable, high-quality education for many years to come.”
However, Brogan did not give a surefire answer regarding the possibility of mergers or closures, saying that he did not know the answer, but that a solution to struggles within the State Sytstem will have to be addressed this year.
“Other states are wrestling with the same issues we are, leading to the reorganization of public university systems in many states around the country—including the merge or even closure of institutions,” Brogan said. “Is that where we are headed? That’s a question I can’t answer today, nor can anyone else. But it is a question we have to ask—and we have to answer—this year, not in the future—because this system and our universities are essential to Pennsylvania’s future.”
According to the press release on PASSHE’s website, state funding to PASSHE schools has declined by over $3 billion since the 2008 financial crisis, with overall enrollment declining for the last five consecutive years.
However, the State System could see some financial relief coming its way, as Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf presented a budget for the fiscal year 2017-18 that increases funding for state universities.
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