The Difference Between “Public Education” and “Public Higher Education”
As shown earlier, the Pennsylvania Constitution Article III, LEGISLATION, Public School System,
Section 14, contains the following mandate:
“The General Assembly shall provide for the maintenance and support of a thorough and efficient system of public education to serve the needs of the Commonwealth.” (Emphasis added.)
As noted earlier, however, Section 14 does not mandate a precise level of support, either overall or for any one “sector” within Pennsylvania public education—those decisions are left to the Legislature’s discretion. And as noted previously, “public higher education” is just one sector of “public education.”
The past sixty-five years of Pennsylvania history show that the Legislature has used its discretion to reduce public support for public higher education by decreasing the annual funding share of the fourteen PASSHE universities from 90% to 25%, for an average reduction of one percent per year for the last sixty-five years.
Who Will Deliver the “Public Higher Education” Purpose?
If State Appropriation to the fourteen PASSHE universities were to be reduced to zero, there would be no State funds with which to subsidize the cost of education to the students. The students would then be forced to pay the total cost of education, rendering those universities—financially speaking—private.
If that were to occur, PASSHE would no longer be able to deliver the public higher education purpose.
As stated in last week’s blog post, “…for political reasons alone such an action by the Legislature [reducing PASSHE funding to zero] is not very likely to occur.”
By way of explanation, reducing PASSHE’s State funding to zero would eliminate the only chance which Pennsylvania students currently have to study at institutions—specifically the PASSHE Universities—whose statutory purpose is “To provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”
While the four State-related universities receive public funding and provide educational opportunities for Pennsylvania students, their high tuitions and public statements of institutional purpose make it clear that their lofty goals do not include providing education at “the lowest possible cost to the students”—which is, and has been, the hallmark of “public higher education” in America since its beginnings in the 1830s.
A Comparison of Tuitions and Institutional Purposes
For 2015-16, the yearly in-state tuition rates for PASSHE and the State-related universities are as follows: PASSHE - $6,820; Penn State- $16,572; Pittsburgh: $17,772; Temple - $14,696; and Lincoln: $7,160.
The statutory (Act 188) purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities is: “To provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”
None of Pennsylvania’s four State-related universities has a remotely similar purpose.
Neither the mission statements of Penn State University,¹ the University of Pittsburgh,² Temple University,³ or Lincoln University⁴ includes the words “…at the lowest possible cost to the students.”
The above facts make it clear that, should State funding to the fourteen PASSHE universities be reduced to zero, no existing institutions in Pennsylvania would be available to provide the “public university purpose.”
Unless elected officials wish to defend Pennsylvania becoming the first State in the Union to eliminate public (i.e., subsidized) higher education, State funding to PASSHE will not soon, if ever, be cut to zero.
Pennsylvania with its 25% funding share of PASSHE’s annual revenue is only the fifth worse State when it comes to funding public higher education. Vermont (at 15%) and three other states (New Hampshire, Delaware and Colorado) still provide a cushion between Pennsylvania and total educational ignominy.
The Funding/Governance Disparity: The Status Quo versus the PASCU Proposal
In view of the gigantic disparity between the State’s funding share (25%) and its governance share (100%), there needs to be a substantial lowering of the State’s governance share at the PASSHE universities.
The State’s governance share on PASSHE’s fifteen governing boards should be cut from 100% to no more than 30% of the seats on the Board of Governors (BOG) and the fourteen Councils of Trustees (COTs).
The Status Quo
Current PASSHE Funding Share provided by State Appropriation - 25%
Current PASSHE Governance Share controlled by the State - 100%
Current PASSHE Funding Share provided by the Students, Parents and Alumni Donors - 75%
Current PASSHE Governance Share controlled by the Students, Parents and Alumni Donors - 0%
The PASCU Proposal
For numerous reasons provided in previous blog posts, PASCU (the Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities) is committed to the adoption of the following proposal in order to rectify the current huge funding/governance disparity with regard to the functioning of PASSHE:
· Whereas: The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania became PASSHE’s Minority Financial Stakeholder in 1993 when its funding share (49%) first fell below 50%; and
· Whereas: The share of PASSHE’s annual operating revenue provided by the State is now 25%; and
· Whereas: The share of PASSHE’s annual operating revenue provided by PASSHE’s Majority Financial Stakeholders—PASSHE Students, Parents and Alumni Donors—is now 75%; and
· Whereas: The State, the current Minority (25%) Financial Stakeholder, controls 100% of PASSHE’s governance board seats; and
· Whereas: the current Majority (75%) Financial Stakeholders control 0% of the governance board seats;
Therefore: It is proposed that the necessary laws be passed or amended to change the governance shares of the two primary financial stakeholders—PASSHE’s Minority and Majority Financial Stakeholders—to more closely match their respective current funding shares.
Specifically, the new governance shares would be as follows:
Of the twenty seats on the Board of Governors, six would continue to be controlled by the State, and fourteen would be controlled by the Students, Parents and Alumni Donors.
Of the eleven seats on each of the fourteen Councils of Trustees, three would continue to be controlled by the State, and eight would be controlled by the Students, Parents and Alumni Donors.
To be continued.