Financial problems may lead to faculty layoffs in PASSHE schools

Rachel Wright, News Editor

     In the weeks since the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) made the announcement that the system and the schools were undergoing a strategic review, a handful of state universities are under a microscope as they evaluate their current financial situations and try to come up with solutions.

     The strategic review is not a death sentence to smaller schools as the words “merger” and “closing” have been thrown around, but rather a chance to look at all the school systems and make changes where changes should be made. “We don’t know what recommendations will be made at the conclusion of the review, but there are no preconceptions… Other states have undertaken mergers or closures, but our goal is to find solutions that are right for Pennsylvania,” according to the PASSHE website.


     In the time since the announcement was first made, PASSHE has been working with the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS) who plan to be visiting all 14 state universities during the month of April to gather information and receive input from students, faculty, staff, alumni and stakeholders. Chancellor Brogan has had and will continue to have “fairly regular contact will all of the presidents, in person, on the phone, etc,” said Kenn Marshall, PASSHE media relations manager. “In fact, they meet as a group either in person or by conference call every month.” Most, if not all, of the PASSHE university presidents attended the Board of Governors meeting last week, which is a two-day quarterly meeting.“We’ve heard a lot of talk about whether universities will succeed or fail, but that really poses the wrong question entirely because universities are not businesses. If our universities don’t succeed, ultimately, we fail the Commonwealth and all of its citizens,” said Kenneth Mash, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) president.


     On March 21 Mansfield University put out a retrenchment letter, or letter detailing a plan to cut expenses including faculty layoffs, to APSCUF. April 1 was the deadline for universities to inform PASSHE about layoffs due to program curtailment, elimination of courses or the elimination of the duties and responsibilities performed by no classroom faculty according to Article 29 of APSCUF’s collective bargaining agreement.California, Cheyney, Clarion and Edinboro Universities soon followed suite and submitted their own retrenchment letters. “A letter of retrenchment does not necessarily mean faculty will definitely be laid off, but it adds to an atmosphere of uncertainty that has already been fueled by talk of possible closures and mergers,” said Mash. “… We understand finances are tight, but cutting programs and faculty members is penny wise and pound foolish. Limiting opportunities will not help universities heal or grow. It certainly does nothing to encourage potential students to enroll.”