Senate Approves Sweeping Reforms to Ensure Sustainability of PA State System of Higher Education

(HARRISBURG) – The Senate approved a set of broad reforms today to protect the future of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and ensure the system has the tools to achieve its mission for many years to come, according to Senator Ryan P. Aument (R-36).

Many PASSHE schools were facing considerable financial and enrollment pressures even before the COVID-19 pandemic, and these problems have been made worse by the temporary closing of all 14 system schools due to concerns about student health.

House Bill 2171 would assist PASSHE’s efforts to redesign its system in the wake of these challenges. The bill would give the PASSHE Board of Governors the power to create, expand, consolidate, transfer or affiliate member schools. The Chancellor of PASSHE would be required to conduct a thorough review of an institution and prepare a detailed implementation plan for any changes to system schools. This includes holding at least two public hearings, consulting with faculty and other stakeholders, opening a public comment period and reporting quarterly to the General Assembly.

The bill would also require shared services among all member universities when the system can show savings and efficiencies, unless member schools opt out by a two-thirds vote of the Council of Trustees.

Senators Scott Martin (R-13) and Robert M. “Tommy” Tomlinson (R-6) have led PASSHE reform efforts in the Senate, including introducing Senate Bill 1172 and negotiating with stakeholders which resulted in the amendments to HB 2171. The Senators said the goal of the legislation is to promote the long-term viability of all schools in the system, protect access to an affordable education for Pennsylvania students, and ensure any changes to the system are completed with full transparency and accountability. This legislation was created with the continued help of the Chancellor, many University Presidents and staff of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, as well as various stakeholder groups and Senate Education Chairman Senator Wayne Langerholc, Jr. (R-35) and Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Pat Browne (R-16).

“If we are to build an opportunity society in Pennsylvania where every resident has access to earned success and upward economic mobility, we need to ensure the long term stability of the PASSHE schools so that they can continue providing a high quality, world class education at an affordable price,” said Aument. “PASSHE schools are not only vital to the student population that they serve, but they are also economic drivers for the communities in which they are located. This bill cuts through the red tape to allow the PASSHE system to transform and better meet the evolving needs of students, communities, employers.”

Any new plan would need to be approved by the PASSHE Board of Governors within three years. House Bill 2171 now returns for a concurrence vote before the House of Representatives.

CONTACT:  Ryan Boop (717) 787-4420