Health - February 24, 2017

State System of Higher Ed faltering and in need of funding

Frank Brogan, Chancellor of the PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) testified in front of the House and Senate Appropriations committees this week to make his case for increased funding. Brogan relayed that PASSHE schools are rapidly depleting funds and that the way the system is currently organized is “unsustainable.” Just this week the PASSHE board voted to approve an $8 million line of credit to Cheyney University to ensure it continues to operate with a provision that they implement a new model to become self-sustainable. A drop in enrollment and benefit and pension obligations coupled with decreased and flat line funding have led to the financial strains for the system. The efforts made by the system to reduce costs have not been enough and they’re struggling to keep tuition affordable while continuing to offer a quality education. Some of the system’s schools see competition from other schools outside the system, including Penn State’s 22 branch campuses.

With the state facing a $2 billion deficit, the state universities were lucky to even be included; Wolf proposed a $9 million increase. But that’s not nearly enough to keep the system going. Brogan requested $61 million this week; noting that the systems schools will run out of cash by summer 2019. The system is working on hiring a consulting firm to figure out options for moving forward. Legislators came down hard on Brogan over the study, noting it was supposed to be completed by now. Brogan said that they had not been sitting idly by; but had been preparing for the study and are in the process of hiring a firm with recommendations coming by the end of summer. The study will consider a number of factors such as academic programs, tuition costs, and management. It will also examine other universities in the state as well as those in the system in order to provide the best recommendation for changes to the current system.  

PA Turnpike Commissioner leaves for Gaming Control Board

Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission Chairman Sean Logan has resigned his post. He has taken a job with the Gaming Control Board. Logan replaces Gregory Fajt whose term had ended. Logan, a former state senator, joined the PTC in 2013 and became chairman in 2015. He oversaw the speed limit increase implementation and several construction projects but also garnered criticism for not closing roadways more quickly during the 2016 snowstorm that stranded motorists. Governor Wolf will have to nominate a replacement for Logan on the Commission.