PASSHE to move forward with merging of Mansfield,Bloomsburg and Lock Haven universities

Shown is North Hall of Mansfield University, which may soon be merged with both Bloomsburg and Lock Haven universities through a state integration program.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has taken another step forward in potentially merging Mansfield, Bloomsburg and Lock Haven Universities.

According to a recent press release, PSSHE’s Board of Governors have affirmed that they will continue planning to integrate both Mansfield, Bloomsburg and Lock Haven Universities and California, Clarion and Edinboro Universities. The merge would shift each grouping of state universities to operate as “a single accredited entity with a single leadership, faculty, enrollment management strategy and budget while honoring local identity.”

After an initial financial review of the university integration plan, Chancellor Dan Greenstein stated that data and analysis “clearly” show that the merging “will mean greater student opportunity in regions critical to Pennsylvania’s economy.”

“As we strive to hold our place as the affordable public higher education option, we must continue to think and act boldly so that any Pennsylvanian, regardless of zip code, can continue their education at a State System university,” Greenstein stated.

To move forward with the integration process, an implementation plan is being developed and could be presented to the Board of Governors “as early as April 2021.”

In accordance with Act 50 of 2020, the implementation process will then include a “60-day public comment period and periodic updates to members of the General Assembly.”

The earliest an integrated university could begin accepting students would be August 2022, according to the press release.

During recent presentations, Greenstein stated that “preliminary projections of enrollment growth” show growth between 4% and 5% for both merged state university groupings “due to their combined size.”

Greenstein said the goal of the two integrations is to “serve new student groups who need affordable access to postsecondary education while also providing traditional, residential, in-class educational experiences.”

For the Mansfield, Bloomsburg, Lock Haven grouping, this would mean “creation of quick-burst, non-degree, certificate or stackable credential programs to bolster northern Pennsylvania’s job market,” according to the press release while the California, Clarion, Edinboro integration would focus on “robust, affordable, career-relevant online program based here in Pennsylvania.”

“The communities where these universities have for more than a century provided pathways to a better life for students, they’re depending on us to be nimble, adaptable, and continue providing career-relevant, post-secondary higher education opportunities,” Greenstein said. “That’s why we’re challenging the status quo and taking this opportunity to shape public higher education for the 21st century.”

In addition, the Board of Governors approved a resolution that authorizes Greenstein “to seek $487 million in state appropriations for 2021-22 (a 2% increase over the current year).”

PASSHE will also attempt to gain $25 million for System Redesign efforts as part of a multi-year request approved by the Board last year.

“We enjoy a collaborative, candid, and supportive partnership with the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” said Board of Governing Chair Cindy Shapira. “We acknowledge that the State has many challenges to confront due to the coronavirus pandemic, and we also have a strong case to make that the State System is critical to the success of Pennsylvania’s economic future. That success depends on robust support from the Commonwealth that keeps tuition low, and we look forward to further conversations with our partners about the path forward.”

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