Pa.higher education panel prospects for ideas on reducing costs

    As a panel appointed by Gov. Tom Corbett to rethink higher education had its first meeting Monday, officials at Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities are concerned that they’ll continue to see their share of state funding ebb.

    The commission on higher education and its future in Pennsylvania is just getting started.

    Panel chairman Robert Wonderling, CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, believes “great ideas come from anywhere.”

    The Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education will seek them out as it pursues its goal of coming up with ways to make Pennsylvania colleges and universities cost less for students and provide more benefits for everyone –- including employers.

    Panel members include the presidents of the four semi-state universities, as well as the head of the state system universities.

    Wonderling says his role as chairman is to keep the ideas flowing with no judgment. He aims to “create a process over the next several months, where we are a conduit for ideas, reach consensus around those ideas and do so in a way that isn’t a report that’s on the shelf.”

    He alluded to past commissions that have had varying success getting final recommendations implemented as policy.

    The governor’s Marcellus Shale Advisory Commission led to an impact fee on natural gas drillers.

    But a transportation funding report still hasn’t spurred any policy initiatives by the governor.

    The higher education panel will meet once more next month, then hold five public hearings throughout the state in May and June.

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