Bill Would Let Universities Secede From State System

Proposal intended to let strong schools survive apart from weaker ones.

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports on a bill that would let some state universities secede from a faltering state system. One intended beneficiary: West Chester University in suburban Philadelphia.

State Sen. Andrew Dinniman (D., Chester), ranking Democrat on the Senate Education Committee, said he and Sen. Robert Tomlinson (R., Bucks) hope in the coming weeks to unveil legislation that would grant schools like West Chester greater autonomy within the state system or allow those schools to perhaps become state-related institutions, like Temple, Pennsylvania State, and Lincoln Universities, and the University of Pittsburgh.

Dinniman said the state system no longer can fill its 14 universities, has a state appropriation slashed to 1990s levels, and has fallen deeper into debt for construction on campuses with growing vacancy rates. Enrollment systemwide of 112,300 students this year is down from 2010’s peak by 7,200 students – equal to an entire campus.

“The only way currently that the system has for survival is to take money away from those institutions that are doing well, which is actually only West Chester and Bloomsburg Universities, and [shift] it to institutions that are not in as good a shape,” said Dinniman, citing enrollment gains at both schools.

The full-list of “state system” schools is here; it also inlcudes Kutztown and Cheyney universities. “State-related” schools do receive state funding, but are more free to set their own tuition and other policies.