Pennsylvania’s 3 big pillars to overhaul the state higher education system

The three-part plan is based on recommendations by the Higher Education Working Group, a team of state higher education leaders appointed last year by Gov. Shapiro.

A year ago, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro proclaimed the state’s higher education system wasn’t “working.” Declining enrollment, skyrocketing tuition and financially thin institutions paralyzed state leaders on how the best path forward was to keep in-state talent and ensure its colleges and universities remained competitive.

Thankfully, Gov. Shapiro has discovered a way out.

In a new blueprint unveiled last Friday, the governor is looking to overhaul the current higher education system and reestablish its core tenants around workforce development and access and affordability. To ensure its effectiveness, Gov. Shapiro is implementing a new governance structure that incentivizes colleges and universities to adhere to these principles, focused on a performance-based funding model.

The new strategy may have arrived in the nick of time: Over the past decade, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) enrollment has dropped 30% and community college enrollment has decreased by 37%, according to officials.

“Pitt looks forward to working with the Shapiro Administration and the legislature to enact a higher education plan that delivers for students and puts Pennsylvania on a path to a more competitive workforce and a more robust economy,” University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Joan Gabel said.

The three-part plan is based on recommendations by the Higher Education Working Group, a team of state higher education leaders appointed last year by Gov. Shapiro.

The new Pennsylvania system

Gov. Shaprio proposes uniting PASSHE’s 10 state universities and 15 community colleges under one umbrella to create better pathways to affordable credentials and degrees that students can access throughout their lifetimes. This will help improve their coordination efforts and create more transparent goals based on student success, all the while preserving local leadership.

The governor will propose a significant investment in state-owned universities, community colleges, and their students in the state’s budgetary address next month.

Access and affordability

In line with the budgetary increases Gov. Shapiro plans to propose for students, the state aims to ensure students of all incomes will not be burdened by college costs on their way to pursuing postsecondary education. Residents of Pennsylvania earning up to the median income will not spend more than $1,000 on tuition and fees limit at state-owned universities and community colleges.

“We’ll build a higher education system that opens up doors of opportunity, prepares our workforce, and serves as the linchpin to Pennsylvania’s economic success,” said the governor.

Performance-based model

The Shapiro Administration will create a performance-based funding formula for public and state-related colleges, incentivizing recruitment and support for degrees in high-demand fields focused on driving state economic growth. Specific metrics that will be studied at institutions include but are not limited to enrollment growth, the success of first-generation college students and graduation rates.

“I have been a strong advocate for performance-based funding in higher education, not only to enhance transparency and accountability but also to achieve meaningful outcomes for our students,” said Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi. “I am extremely pleased to see that part of Gov. Shapiro’s blueprint is a call to establish a predictable performance-based funding formula, and we look forward to working with the legislature to implement such a model.”

Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel
Alcino Donadel is a UB staff writer and first-generation journalism graduate from the University of Florida. His beats have ranged from Gainesville's city development, music scene and regional little league sports divisions. He has triple citizenship from the U.S., Ecuador and Brazil.

Most Popular