Board of Trustees Approves Plan for Edinburgh Universities, Clarion, Calif.

The University of Edinboro in Pennsylvania will be the campus of a larger university starting next summer.

The Pennsylvania State Higher Education System Board of Governors has unanimously approved the consolidation, or “integration,” of the universities of Edinboro, Clarion and California in Pennsylvania after several hours of discussion . Wednesday.

The new university in Western Pennsylvania – which has yet to be named – will have three campuses, in Edinboro, Clarion and California, and a single university program, administration, and staff.

Three public universities in northeastern Pennsylvania, Mansfield, Lock Haven and Bloomsburg, will also be consolidated next year.

The integrations are part of a larger and vital overhaul of the state-owned university system, said Cindy Shapira, Chair of the Board of Governors.

“Significant changes must occur if we are to ensure that accessible and affordable public higher education remains available and attractive to students in all parts of Pennsylvania,” Shapira said.

But members of the public who commented this spring on the then proposed integration plans disagreed that integration should be approved while certain issues – including accreditation and the possibility that campuses can offer. their own sports programs – remain unanswered.

Not a popular decision

PASSHE Chancellor Daniel Greenstein said of the more than 1,000 written comments as well as in-person comments received in eight hours of hearings and meetings, the distribution of opinions was as follows:

  • 43% oppose integration
  • 15% requested a delay in deciding the issue
  • 7% took charge of the integration

Edinburgh University students, employees, graduates and community members who commented on the university’s planned consolidation saw the problem differently. Twenty percent took charge of the consolidation; 17% percent asked to delay integration; 4% oppose integration.

Public universities must adapt to reverse declining enrollment and income, and integration is a crucial part of that process, Barbara Chaffee, chair of the board of trustees of the University of Edinburgh, told the University of Edinburgh on Wednesday. governors of PASSHE.

“The integration of the universities of Edinboro, Clarion and California is essential to our survival and long-term success,” said Chaffee.

“Our backbone is integration,” said Chaffee.

A number of Democratic state lawmakers had called for delaying integration until all major concerns were resolved. State Representatives Pat Harkins, Ryan Bizzarro and Bob Merski of Erie County were among the signatories of a June 21 letter written by Mark Longietti, Democratic Chairman of the House Education Committee, urging PASSHE to delay for a year consolidation plans.

PASS:Edinboro will still be Edinboro in one form or another after consolidation

Officials say concerns have been resolved

“Many important elements of the proposed integrations are unclear and many questions remain unanswered,” lawmakers said in the letter.

The letter and other public comments on the integration plans are posted on PASSHE’s website at

the integration plans have been updated to address a number of concerns raised, including extending the schedule for consolidating university programs, Greenstein said. Educators will now have three years to consolidate academic offerings.

Other concerns will be addressed as consolidation progresses, he said.

Delaying the consolidation vote would only delay accreditation and an NCAA decision on whether campuses will keep their own sports programs, Greenstein said in an interview with the Erie Times-News earlier this week.

“None of the regulatory accreditation boards will do anything before the (board of governors) vote,” Greenstein said. “If the board decided to delay, it would have the same information in front of it when it resumes the vote.”

Greenstein said PASSHE will continue to work with regulatory bodies for the accreditation and approval of sports programs.

Consolidation of Edinboro:Details provided on the structure and academic programs

Wednesday’s motion to approve college clusters “expressly prohibits” the closure of the Edinburgh, Bloomsburg, California, Clarion, Lock Haven and Mansfield campuses.

The Board of Governors does not have the power to shut down a university or campus even without that guarantee, Greenstein said.

“But there was so much concern … that the motion will give a higher degree of comfort” to those who fear that one or more of the consolidated campuses is closing, Greenstein said.

Changes needed for financial sustainability

University consolidations are meant to help public universities become financially viable, but that won’t happen anytime soon, according to PASSHE financial projections included in integration plans.

PASSHE predicts that the consolidation will allow the new universities to offer more academic programs – well over 100 at the Western University, compared to 40 that the University of Edinburgh could offer on its own – and that the expanded offerings, including including more courses and programs online, will attract new students and income.

But the huge construction debt will offset any increases in enrollment and tuition fees for a few years, according to PASSHE projections.

The University of Edinboro is expected to enter consolidation with a budget deficit of $ 2.3 million, a reserve deficit of $ 6.8 million and a construction debt of $ 125 million.

Clarion University will end this fiscal year with a budget surplus of $ 2.1 million, a reserve deficit of $ 6 million and a construction debt of $ 98 million.

The University of California will enter consolidation with a budget surplus of $ 5.7 million, $ 27.4 million in reserves and $ 147 million in construction debt.

Without consolidation, universities would have to make more cuts to offset deficits and debt, Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, interim president of the University of Edinburgh, told the Erie Times-News earlier this week.

“Without integration, we wouldn’t have the resources to deliver comprehensive programs and would have to scale back programs. And that would be very sad for our region, ”said Pehrsson.

Higher education is on the cusp of a major shift to cope with declining enrollment and income. Part of that change will be tailoring education to the needs of non-traditional students, Pehrsson said.

“We now have the opportunity to invest so that students who are non-traditional, older or who cannot come to campus for some reason but need to obtain a degree, graduate degree or diploma have the opportunity. to do it here, ”Pehrsson said. mentionned.

A commitment of $ 200 million from the state over the next three years and an additional $ 100 million from early retirement obligations will help PASSHE evolve for the future, Greenstein said.

“Anything we would do, if we continued the debate, would cost us money. It certainly won’t improve until we start (to change),” Greenstein said. “And students, faculty and staff want to know what the future is.”

The state system is remaking itself to position the 14 public universities for the future, he said. There will be 10 public universities after the consolidations.

“It’s unique. It’s history. And in some ways it’s a lesson in humility, but it’s a huge opportunity. And shame on us if we don’t try like dickens to getting it right for the people of Pennsylvania, ”Greenstein said.

what’s in a name

The three western universities worked with a consultant on the name of the consolidated university, said Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, interim president of the University of Edinburgh.

“We worked with an agency to help us generate possible names that reflect local traditions and also what we have to offer in the west,” said Pehrsson. “We have three very strong possibilities that our constituents, including students, have been invited (to consider). The name will reflect the tradition and colors of each campus and city somewhere in the name of the integrated university. Edinboro I wouldn’t be Edinboro without the tartan. ”

Contact Valérie Myers at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @ETNmyers.

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