Pennsylvania’s public college and university system has hit tough financial times thanks to more-or-less flat state funding, rising pension costs, and enrollment that has declined 12 percent since 2010.
In hearings before the legislature, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chancellor Frank Brogan told lawmakers exactly what they’d feared: if drastic measures aren’t taken, some campuses could be completely out of cash by next summer, even if they leverage loans against what’s known as their auxiliary reserves — meaning things like dorms and meal plans.
He said the situation has been serious for some time, but noted that “nothing moves people more to change than a drastic circumstance.”
PASSHE has been working on an internal study to find ways to increase enrollment and student retention, among other things.
There’s been some delay in getting it started, but Brogan promised the legislature will get a Request for Proposal — or RFP — laying out the system’s financial needs by this summer.
He said the system will prioritize keeping all 14 schools open, but nothing is off the table.
“If sacred cows are created along the way, they’ll stack up in the pasture to the point where nothing will happen,” he said.
Brogan said not all the schools are in the same leaky financial boat, but was adamant that the healthy ones couldn’t reasonably be tapped to prop up the schools in danger of closing.
“Out of our 14 universities, we don’t have one of them that is rich,” he said. “Contrary to the myth that we have several that are big and robust and have plenty of money to throw around, the funding that we receive from the state is back to where it was in 1994.”
Wolf’s budget proposal would increase state funding by $8.9 million — a figure Brogan said would be helpful, but is not enough to keep the system afloat.