Monday, July 25, 2016

The Gentrification of Public Higher Education - Part 7


Illegal and Legal Corruption


As stated in last week’s blog post, Pennsylvania is often ranked in the top ten of the most corrupt states in America!  At least two surveys¹ rank Pennsylvania as the fifth most corrupt state in the fifty states.²

A particular in-depth study³ by the Harvard University Ethics Center entitled “Measuring Illegal and Legal Corruption in American States: Some Results from the Corruption in America Survey,” is most revealing. The Harvard study includes the following definitions:  

Illegal Corruption

“We define illegal corruption as the private gains in the form of cash or gifts by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups.”

Legal Corruption



“We define legal corruption as the political gains in the form of campaign contributions or endorsements by a government official, in exchange for providing specific benefits to private individuals or groups, be it by explicit or implicit understanding.”



Institutional Corruption



According to the Harvard study, illegal corruption and legal corruption are examples and part of a larger form of corruption known as “institutional corruption,” which Lawrence Lessig⁴ has defined as follows:



Institutional corruption “is manifest when there is a systemic and strategic influence which  is legal, or even currently ethical, that undermines the institution’s effectiveness by diverting it from its purpose or weakening its ability to achieve its purpose, including, to the extent relevant to its purpose, weakening either the public’s trust in that institution or the institution’s inherent trustworthiness.”



Though we will focus today on Harvard’s rankings of illegal and legal corruption in Pennsylvania, we will soon return to the more relevant issue of institutional corruption at the PASSHE system of fourteen universities, which include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.

We will then explore Lessig’s definition as it applies to the institutional corruption that is undermining PASSHE’s effectiveness by diverting it from its Act 188 statutory purpose(essentially by ignoring it), or weakening its ability to achieve its purpose, which is to provide “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students” (by espousing and brazenly pursuing a totally different purpose in its strategic plan, which focuses on the system rather than the students, as called for by law).

The source of PASSHE’s institutional corruption is found not in the 14 universities but rather in PASSHE’s  fifteen governance bodies—especially the Board of Governors and to a lesser extent in the fourteen Councils of Trustees—which operate principally to advance political rather than educational goals.

Corruption Begins With Conspiracy

As noted in the Harvard study, it is difficult to even measure corruption—much less prosecute it after the fact or prevent it before the fact—because by its very nature it is always conducted in secret! 



But even before corruption can occur, the individuals involved must first engage in a “conspiracy,” which is also conducted in secret.  Findlaw.com defines conspiracy by saying that it exists “when two or more people agree to commit almost any unlawful act, and then take some action toward its completion.”



If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.”

                                                                                                                    Anonymous



Because of the inherent difficulty in documenting something which those involved in conspiracy and corruption are taking great pains to keep secret, a number of different measures of corruption have been implemented over the years to produce the various published rankings of State corruption.

 

One measure of corruption used by the Department of Justice is the number of national prosecutions. The DOJ reports that “in the last two decades more than 20,000 public officials and private individuals have been convicted for crimes related to corruption and more than 5,000 are awaiting trial.”



The number of corruption convictions, based on a “beyond-a-reasonable-doubt” standard, would seem to account for only the tiny tip of a very large iceberg, meaning that the 25,000 figure cited by the DOJ might actually imply that the number of actual corruption perpetrators who remain un-convicted, or even un-prosecuted, could easily be 100 times larger, amounting to 2.5 million individuals or more.



A better measure of corruption may be obtained from surveys to reporters who cover the institutions and the officials who are in a position to engage in corruption.  The Harvard study was done by means of such a survey for the reason that “Reporters have a better knowledge of state governments and spend a great deal of time observing the state officials and interacting with them.”



The Harvard Study “Corruption Report Card” employed a five-point scale as follows:  1) Not at all common; 2) Slightly common; 3) Moderately common; 4) Very common; and 5) Extremely common



Pennsylvania’s “Corruption” Report Card



Illegal Corruption:  Executive Branch (2.5 - Between slightly common and moderately common); Legislative Branch (4 - Very common); and Judicial Branch (2 - Slightly common).



Legal Corruption:  Executive Branch (3 - Moderately common); Legislative Branch (4.5 - Between very common and extremely common); Judicial Branch (3 - Moderately common).



Summary



The Harvard Study concludes with listings of the “Most Corrupt” and “Least Corrupt” states in America.



When it comes to Illegal Corruption, Pennsylvania is ranked as one of the six Most Corrupt States.



When it comes to Legal Corruption, Pennsylvania is ranked as one of the seven Most Corrupt States.

To be continued.






Monday, July 18, 2016

The Gentrification of Public Higher Education - Part 6


The “Low-Tuition-for-All Policy



As stated in last week’s blog post, “…the BOG’s Act 188-defying “low-tuition-for-all” policy is the primary reason for the large increase in PASSHE attendance by more affluent students and the corresponding decrease in PASSHE attendance by less-affluent students.”

The 14 PASSHE universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.

The PASSHE Board of Governors (BOG) is the 20-member group of elected and politically appointed individuals that Act 188 created to guide the operations of the system of fourteen PASSHE universities.  While some discretion was left to the BOG in carrying out its statutory duties, key provisions of Act 188 would appear to be non-discretionary as indicated by the use of the term “shall” in the law’s wording.

While the words “shall” and “may” might be seen as equivalent in certain situations, the meaning of the word “shall,” according to Black’s Law Dictionary,¹ can be quite mandatory when used in law:

What is SHALL?

“As used in statutes and similar instruments, this word is generally imperative or mandatory; but it may be construed as merely permissive or directory, (as equivalent to “may,”) to carry out the legislative intention and In cases where no right or benefit to any one depends on its being taken in the imperative sense, and where no public or private right is impaired by its interpretation in the other sense.”

The two underlined words in the above quote appear in the original Black’s Law Dictionary definition.

But according to that definition, “shall” can be construed as “may” only in situations “where no right or benefit to anyone depends on its being taken in the imperative, and where no public or private right is impaired by its interpretation in the other sense.”

That is, if any one’s rights or benefits depend on the “imperative” interpretation, or if a public or private right is impaired by the “discretionary” interpretation, then the imperative interpretation must prevail.

The Statutory Purpose of the PASSHE System of Fourteen Universities

As a direct quote from Act 188, the statutory purpose² of the fourteen PASSHE universities “shall be to provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.” (Emphasis added.)

Question: Could the use of “shall” in PASSHE’s statutory purpose ever be considered as “discretionary?”  

Answer:  Apparently Not!  The rights and benefits of thousands of PASSHE students from Pennsylvania’s less-affluent families depend critically on the “imperative” interpretation of “shall.” For those students, the BOG’s current “discretionary” interpretation of the word “shall” either burdens them with years of crushing student loan debt, or blocks them entirely from access to a four-year public higher education.     

Alternatively, the public/private rights of those students would be seriously impaired by construing the word “shall” as “discretionary” on the part of the BOG, rather than the clearly prevailing “mandatory.”

The BOG’s “Low-Tuition-For-All” Policy Defies Act 188 and Amounts to Malfeasance

Despite the clear language of Act 188 and the equally clear language in Black’s Law Dictionary with regard to the meaning of the word “shall” when used in law, the PASSHE Board of Governors has brazenly maintained a “low-tuition-for-all” policy with the blessing of three governors since 2002—eight years of Gov. Rendell, four years of Gov. Corbett, and continuing for almost two years with Gov. Wolf.

According to Dictionary.com, “malfeasance” is “the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law.”  The “Low-Tuition-For-All policy clearly meets the dictionary definition of “malfeasance.”

The Act 188 statutory purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities—High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students—has not been provided to PASSHE students since 2002, reducing the statutory purpose of the PASSHE universities to empty words for those students and alumni. 

This is not a failure of law; it is a failure of the public officials on the Board of Governors to obey the law!

 “A Government of Laws and Not of Men

This quote was popularized by John Adams (1735-1826), the second American president, who actually credited the idea to James Harrington, who coined a similar term in 1656, long before Adams’ birth.

But while a “government of laws and not of men” remains a noble ideal in America, there are numerous counter-examples throughout history to suggest how rare it is for that ideal to be faithfully maintained.

The Ten Most Corrupt States  in America

When one inquires on the Internet about the ethical rankings of the fifty states, one may or may not be surprised to learn that Pennsylvania is often ranked in the top ten of the most corrupt states in America!  A number of brief national surveys rank Pennsylvania as the fifth most corrupt state of the fifty states.

A particular in-depth study³ by the Harvard University Ethics Center entitled “Measuring Illegal and Legal Corruption in American States: Some Results from the Corruption in America Survey,” is more revealing.

It ranks the fifty states on its three government branches: Executive, Legislative and Judicial.  It also ranks the branches on two different types of corruption:  1) Illegal Corruption; and 2) Legal Corruption.

Illegal Corruption is clearly corruption that is against the law in that state.  That is, the legislature has passed, and the governor has signed, a law in that state which that makes that kind of behavior illegal.

And although “Legal Corruption” seems like an oxymoron, it really does exist and includes behaviors that meet the dictionary definition of corruption even though the legislative and executive branches have not yet made it illegal in that state!  Sometimes the ethics laws passed by legislators and signed into law by governors are defined in such a way as to render questionable behaviors legal; behaviors that would otherwise be judged illegal had dictionary definitions of those behaviors been used.    

To be continued.





Sunday, July 10, 2016

The Gentrification of Public Higher Education - Part 5


A Look Back in Time



As we continue to look at the tragic gentrification of the fourteen PASSHE universities—the displacement of less-affluent students by more-affluent students in PASSHE classrooms—it is both helpful and instructive to take a look back at how the PASSHE universities got to this particular point. 



The 14 PASSHE universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.



Today’s gentrification is the result of Act 188-defying policy decisions made by the PASSHE Board of Governors; some were made years ago, and others just “double-down” on earlier bad decisions, right up to the present time.  Those policy decisions have produced an alignment of the PASSHE universities that guarantees that the gentrification now being seen is in fact the result intended by those in charge.


A Famous Organizing Principle



“Organizations are perfectly aligned to produce the results that they get.”



This organizing principle has a compelling and equally famous corollary:



“A good definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.”



Question:  Why are the PASSHE universities being increasingly gentrified?



Answer: Because the PASSHE universities are now perfectly aligned to be increasingly gentrified!



That is, current Board of Governors’ policies encourage attendance at PASSHE universities by students from more-affluent families while discouraging attendance by students from less-affluent families—the very students for whom public higher education was first created in the mid nineteenth century!



More specifically, the BOG’s Act 188-defying “low-tuition-for-all” policy is the primary reason for the large increase in PASSHE attendance by more affluent students and the corresponding decrease in PASSHE attendance by less-affluent students.  



Below is an op-ed that was published by The Chronicle of Higher Education in 2008.  This article was the first to mention that the fourteen PASSHE universities were being “privatized without a plan.”  


The Chronicle of Higher Education

October 31, 2008

Lacking Enough State Support

By ANGELO ARMENTI JR.

The global economic crisis promises to aggravate the already troubled financial situations of public universities across the country. My institution, California University of Pennsylvania, is among those that have had to cope with fiscal challenges for a long time. Having watched the decline in public financial support over the 16 years since I arrived as president, in 1992, I can state without fear of contradiction that we are being privatized without a plan.

Indeed, if the trend in appropriations over the past 25 years continues — and it will now probably worsen significantly — zero percent of our budgets will come from our state government. Much sooner than later, we will become, de facto, private institutions.

My university is one of the 14 "state-owned" universities and former state teachers colleges that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. In 2008, Pennsylvania State University, one of four "state-related" universities — which, while not state-owned and -operated, have the characteristics of public institutions and receive significant state appropriations — received 22 percent of its budget for education and general expenses from the state. We and the other state-owned universities received about 37 percent, similar to what Penn State received 13 years earlier. An extrapolation of the data shows that Penn State can expect its budget share to fall to zero by 2033 — just 25 years from now. Similarly, we can expect to see our budget share from state support drop to zero in 2041, only eight years later.

While that extrapolation focused on the percentage of educational and general budgets supported by the state, an analysis of the actual purchasing power of the appropriated dollars, taking inflation into account, confirms a significant decline over the past 25 years. In terms of constant 2007 dollars, state appropriations fell by 16.5 percent. When coupled with a 35-percent increase in full-time enrollments, that led to a 30-percent drop in inflation-adjusted appropriation dollars per student during that time.

The decline in the share of our budget that comes from state support has occurred independently of the political affiliation of the governor or the majority in control of the House or Senate in Pennsylvania over the past several decades. It has proceeded under both Democrats and Republicans.

An explanation of the nonpartisan nature of the decline may be seen in America's rapidly changing demographics. In the 1950s and 60s, the majority of households in America included at least one person 18 years of age or younger — that is, someone who could benefit directly from public higher education; today only one of three households includes someone 18 or younger. It would seem logical that support of public colleges and universities might become less of a priority as soon as elected officials of both parties realized that the majority of voting households could no longer benefit directly from public higher education and cared more about health care and crime.

Thus presidents in our state system of public institutions must act schizophrenically. Like private-university presidents, they must raise revenue from private sources. Simultaneously, like the leaders of public institutions that they are, they must operate under onerous government regulations and employ archaic business practices that are no longer relevant in today's environment. Twenty-five years ago, most public-university presidents did not need to be concerned with private fund raising. Today virtually all do. Back then the procurement of needed goods and services at public universities was complicated, bureaucratic, and slow. Today it still is.

For example, current state regulations require that any purchase in excess of $10,000 (one-hundredth of 1 percent of our university's $100-million educational and general budget) be handled through a lengthy competitive-bidding process. Similarly, the hiring regulations that apply to our 800-member staff require searches typically lasting three to six months.

The most onerous regulations, however, follow from the lack of independent counsel for the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. (The general counsel to the governor appoints the legal counsel for the system.) That lack has resulted in conservative interpretations of various applicable laws and, more specifically, in the key legal opinion that tuition received from the personal checkbooks of students and parents must be regarded as "state dollars," thereby limiting the uses to which those funds can be put — so the state system itself, for example, offers no need-based scholarships for low-income students.

Since my institution and other public universities in the system are operating at the same percentage of state financial support today that Penn State, a state-related university, did just 13 years ago, one can logically ask, "At what level of state support does a 'state-owned' university become 'state-related' in terms of a release from those state regulations from which state-related universities are currently exempt?"

The state should work with the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to develop a multiyear plan for converting, in an orderly fashion, those state universities into private institutions, rather than allowing the current unplanned disinvestment in public higher education — privatization without a plan — to continue as it has for many years.

Universities like ours, created by and subject to law as well as a plethora of other policy directives, confront many obstacles to excellence. As we become increasingly privatized over the next 20 or 30 years, those of us in public institutions must work with state policy makers to develop a new operating paradigm that will enable us to preserve our mission — providing high-quality education at the lowest possible cost to students — even as our state support continues to erode.

The only stable paradigm that I can see emerging is what I would call "privatization with a plan." I doubt that we will see a reversal of the downward trend in public support for public higher education, although we may see a leveling off at around 10 percent. For that reason, it is important that we focus on trying to remove, as part of the "plan," the restrictions that keep us from operating as well as we could as eventually private institutions.

What we have witnessed in the past 25 years is simply democracy at work — majority rule in a time of shifting demographics. It's just unfortunate that the majority of voting households have different priorities than those of us who continue to believe in the crucial importance of public higher education to the future of our country. We can only hope that, before we reach zero state support, restrictions will be lifted, giving us the flexibility that we desperately need.



http://chronicle.com Section: Commentary Volume 55, Issue 10, Page A51

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Gentrification of Public Higher Education - Part 4


Gentrification

Merriam-Webster defines “gentrification” as “the process of renewal and rebuilding accompanying the influx of middle-class or affluent people into deteriorating areas that often displaces poorer residents.”

This gentrification prototype arose in the context of the “urban renewal” of America’s inner cities, but can now be legitimately applied to public higher education—but without the ‘renewal’ and ‘rebuilding.’  That is, public higher education is not being renewed or rebuilt; but poorer students are being displaced.

The Gentrification of Public Higher Education

Only lately has the word “gentrification” been applied to public higher education, and for good reason.

Only lately has the gentrification process—the displacement of less-affluent students by more-affluent students in public higher education classrooms—been clearly observed and publicly documented as a growing national phenomenon since the 1990s.

Data from 420 institutions across America, including the 14 PASSHE universities, show Pennsylvania is well below the average of those institutions when it comes to combatting gentrification; that is, poor students are more likely to be denied a 4-year public education in Pennsylvania than in other states.

Tuition Discounting at Private Universities

The key to understanding the gentrification of public higher education lies first in understanding “tuition discounting,” a financial practice implemented by private colleges and universities many years ago that has more recently been introduced, to varying degrees, at public colleges and universities.   

Excerpts from a recent “Inside Higher Education” article by Kellie Woodhouse¹ explain how it works:

“Private institutions commonly discount their tuition—using institutional aid (often derived from tuition revenue) to offer students a discount from the sticker price—in an effort to entice students to enroll.”

“On average, private colleges’ discount rate—institutional grant dollars as a percentage of gross tuition and fee revenue—reached 48 percent for freshmen in 2014, up from 46.4 percent the year before.”

“Put another way, institutions awarded about 48 cents in institutional grants to freshmen for every dollar collected for first-year tuition and fees.”

Tuition Discounting at Public Universities

Four-year public universities across America generally fall into two distinct categories: 1) AASCU type institutions—i.e., institutions founded in the mid-1800s as “teachers’ colleges” that later evolved into “comprehensive” universities (including the 14 PASSHE universities); and 2) all other public universities, including “research universities” like Penn State, Temple and the University of Pittsburgh.    

A 2007 article² from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) entitled “Tuition Discounting at AASCU Institutions” contains the following quotes:   

“At 6.4 percent, the average tuition discount rate at [approximately 420] AASCU institutions is relatively low when compared to the 33.5 percent discount rate in the private four-year sector and the 14.7 percent rate for all public four year institutions.”

“This year, AASCU institutions awarded more than $653 million in need-based and merit-based institutional grant aid to their students.”

“Fifty-eight percent of all institutional grant aid at AASCU institutions is awarded to students without documented financial need. Only 42 percent of institutional grant aid is awarded on need-based measures, suggesting that institutions are using discounts to “shape” their cohorts in an effort to enroll students with high SAT scores, award scholarships to student-athletes, or provide tuition waivers to minorities and students whose family members are employed at the institution.”

How Gentrification Results from Tuition-Discounting Policy

As seen from the data for all AASCU type institutions, including the fourteen PASSHE universities, the total annual grant aid was $653 million, spread across 420 AASCU institutions.  That amounts to an average of $1.55 million in annual tuition discount aid per institution.

Note that on the average, only 42% of those grant dollars went to students with documented financial need.  I.e., AASCU institutions are already fostering “gentrification” by giving the bulk of their precious aid dollars on the basis of merit rather than documented financial need. 

Recall that tuition-discounting is only possible to the extent that an institution maintains a large-enough difference between a (higher) sticker price and a (lower) actual cost to educate one student for a year.

Tuition Discounting at the Fourteen PASSHE Universities

For purely political reasons, the PASSHE Board of Governors has maintained a “low-tuition-for-all” policy since 2002: The BOG sets tuition rates at or below the actual cost of educating one student for one year!

This Act 188-defying policy has totally disastrous consequences for the majority of PASSHE students:

1)      If tuition is set equal to the actual cost to educate one student for one year, there will be no excess revenue with which to fund tuition discounts—they simply become impossible to grant.  Pennsylvania’s least-affluent students will then get “priced out” of post-secondary educational opportunities, while the less-affluent but “lucky” students who can borrow enough money to meet PASSHE’s very high “bottom line” cost end up with years of crushing student-loan debt.

2)      If tuition is set below the actual cost to educate one student for one year, not only will there be no tuition discounts, but every PASSHE student will receive an education of declining quality each and every year, a situation that began in 2002 and continues to the present day.

Prior to the Great Recession, BOG policy did not allow for any tuition discounting whatsoever.  But in 2008 as the economy of the State worsened and many workers were thrown out of work, the BOG permitted a tiny amount of E&G funds to be granted to students in critical need of financial support.

At our university, we were permitted to grant about $100,000 in tuition discounts to PASSHE students, but first we had to prove that there was really a documented need for any tuition discounts.  Working with our financial aid staff, we were able to identify many PA families where at least one parent of a PASSHE student had lost his/her job.  We then provided some $100,000 in tuition discounts that year.

Recall that the AASCU annual average for tuition discounts was 6.4% of the tuition collected that year.  But at the 14 PASSHE universities, because of the BOG’s low-tuition-for-all policy, we could only afford to provide about 0.1% (i.e., one-tenth of one percent) of the tuition and fee revenue collected that year.  Note that the AASCU average is fifty times higher than the PASSHE figure!    

To be continued.


Monday, June 27, 2016

The Gentrification of Public Higher Education - Part 3

Words Versus Deeds
We began last week’s blog post with the heading “Words and Deeds” as applied to the world of politics.  But when it comes to politics, generally speaking, a more apt heading might be “Words Versus Deeds.”

Merriam-Webster defines “versus” as “against, in contrast to, or as the alternative of.” 
In the case of the gentrification of the fourteen PASSHE universities by the PASSHE Board of Governors since 2002, there is evidence that the BOG’s public statements are often contradicted by their deeds.

The 14 PASSHE universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
Contradictions

Act 188¹ Versus the BOG’s Strategic Plan²

The statutory purpose of the fourteen PASSHE universities—according to Act 188 of 1982, the law that created them and legally controls them to this day—is to provide “high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”  (Emphasis added.)

PASSHE’s current “Strategic Plan 2020: Rising to the Challenge” was adopted by the Board of Governors in January of 2014, and prominently displays the following statement of Vision:
“The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education [PASSHE] seeks to be among the nation’s leading systems of public universities recognized for (1) excellence, relevance, and value in education; and (2) responsiveness to regional, state, and national needs through its programs, service, scholarship, and research.” (Emphasis added.)

According to Act 188, a PASSHE education should be about the students; but according to PASSHE’s Strategic Plan—as approved by the Board of Governors—a PASSHE education is about the system.
It is difficult to imagine a contradiction more blatant than this one:  Act 188—the enabling legislation that created the PASSHE system of fourteen universities—also created the PASSHE Board of Governors!

Despite being Act 188’s creation, the BOG issued a strategic plan that places the PASSHE system above the students, in arrogant defiance of the law that created both the system and the Board of Governors.
BOG’s Public Statements on Students Versus BOG’s Gentrification Policy on Students   

A review of PASSHE news releases and newspaper articles in which PASSHE officials are quoted reveals that high PASSHE officials—in particular the Chancellor and the Chair of the Board of Governors—are very reluctant to acknowledge the Act 188 statutory purpose of the 14 PASSHE universities, which is to provide “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.” 
If the Chancellor or Chair of the PASSHE Board of Governors ever publicly uttered the words “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students” regarding PASSHE’s statutory purpose, it is a fact that somehow those words never found their way into any printed record that I could find!

Act 188’s statutory purpose, as well as the best interests of the students cited there, has been missing from the BOG’s public statements for years.  That same purpose as well as the students’ best interests have also been missing from the BOG’s contradictory policy choices and actions since 2002. 
Perhaps the Board of Governors reasoned that as long as they never publicly acknowledged Act 188’s statutory purpose or the best interests of the students cited there, no one would notice when they adopted policies and took actions that violated both Act 188 and the best interests of PASSHE students.

In a parallel way, the word “student” so prominently featured in Act 188’s statutory purpose, does not appear at all in the Vision statement proclaimed by the Board of Governors’ current strategic plan! 
The Words

During my 20 years as a PASSHE university president and the four years since, the Chair of the Board of Governors rarely issued a written statement describing the Board’s relationship to the PASSHE students.
In fact I could find only one document of that type, and it appeared in a 2012 PASSHE News Release³ entitled “PASSHE Board of Governors Chair sends open letter to California University of Pennsylvania.”  That letter contains, in part, the following statement over the signature of BOG Chair Guido M. Pichini:

“Students, please know that your interests always come first in every decision we make and every action we take. There is no more important responsibility for us as a Board than to help ensure that you have an outstanding educational experience that leads to your ultimate success.”

Words Versus Deeds

Words: “Students, please know that your interests always come first in every decision we make and every action we take.”

Deeds: The BOG’s gentrification policy helps only about one-third of PASSHE students (those from more- affluent families) and harms the other two-thirds of PASSHE students (those from less-affluent families).  One third of PASSHE students get unneeded State subsidies, and two thirds of PASSHE students receive one of two evil outcomes: 1) crushing student-loan debt, if they are lucky; and 2) no opportunity for a college education whatsoever if their family is unable to meet PASSHE’s bottom line cost of attendance.

Words: “…to help ensure that you have an outstanding educational experience…”

Deeds:  Ironically, as shown in earlier blog posts, the BOG’s “low-tuition-for-all” policy has been the cause of the steady erosion in the quality of a PASSHE educational experience since 2002.

In addition to causing that steady decline in quality, that very same BOG policy is causing the rapid gentrification of the fourteen PASSHE universities. 

In summary, the evidence shows that a large chasm exists between Board of Governors’ statements with their pretty words regarding PASSHE students, and the ugly outcomes actually being delivered by the Board of Governors to the vast majority of PASSHE students. 

To be continued.

¹ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6772880/act188-pdf-405k.


Monday, June 20, 2016

The Gentrification of Public Higher Education - Part 2


Words and Deeds

In last week’s blog post, we began by talking about “The Power of Words.”  This week, we will focus on some critical differences between words and deeds, especially in the world of politics as it applies to the elected and appointed officials who both inhabit and seek to exert maximum control over that world.

And if you are wondering what “politics” and “control” might have to do with the gentrification of public higher education in Pennsylvania, remember this: The fourteen PASSHE universities and the 100,000+ students and their families who rely on them, are subject to total, i.e., 100%, political control.  

The 14 PASSHE universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
    
The Definition of “Politics

Recall that Merriam-Webster defines the word “politics” as having two very different aspects: “activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government.” (Emphasis added.) 

The first aspect of politics is the familiar one in which citizens attempt to influence the actions and policies of the governments that affect them.  This aspect of politics is best captured by the term “civics,” defined as “the study of the rights and duties of citizens and of how government works.”

Civics, this first aspect of politics, is seen as being quite respectable as manifested by the fact that everyday citizens are often encouraged to consider getting involved in improving their communities by, for example, running for local school boards or town councils.

But the second aspect of politics—getting and keeping power in a government—is neither as familiar, nor as respectable as the first aspect of politics, and for very good reason.

Have you ever heard an elected official or candidate for elective office say “I’m running for election because I am interested in getting and keeping power in a government?”   Of course you haven’t.

Any politician that honest about the true nature of politics would have no chance of getting elected.

Civics aside, politics—by definition—is about “getting and keeping power in a government.”

In the 60s, key insights into the essence of politics, i.e., getting and keeping power in a government, were volunteered by Jesse (Big Daddy) Unruh, a former Speaker of the California State Assembly who became famous for uttering the following quote: 

Money is the mother’s milk of politics

If you want to know what ‘getting and keeping power in government’ looks like, you need to “follow the money,” because getting and keeping power in government is mostly about a quest for money.

Consider the following facts relative to the 100% political control of the PASSHE universities:

Governance

·         Total political control of the fourteen PASSHE universities is exercised through PASSHE’s fifteen governance bodies which include: the Board of Governors (BOG) in Harrisburg, plus the fourteen Councils of Trustees (COTs) which operate from the individual university campuses.

·         Of the twenty members of the BOG, five are elected officials and fifteen are political appointees of elected officials.  Of the 154 members of the COTs (11 at each of the 14 universities), each COT member is a political appointee of elected officials.

Fidelity

·         Every one of the 174 members of PASSHE’s governance bodies takes the same oath of office, which reads in its entirety as follows:

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support, obey and defend the constitution of the United States and the Constitution of this Commonwealth and that I will discharge the duties of my office with fidelity.” (Emphasis added.)

·                  Note that the object of their fidelity is not specified in the oath taken by PASSHE governance board members!  Apparently, individual BOG and COT members are free—under the above oath—to decide for themselves to whom they owe their fidelity in carrying out their official duties.

·                  Would anyone then be surprised if a majority of the politically-appointed PASSHE governance board members decided that they owed their fidelity not to the PASSHE students, parents and alumni donors now providing 75% of PASSHE’s annual revenue, but to the elected officials who appointed them to their positions of power?

The Role of Money in the 100% Political Control of the Fourteen PASSHE Universities

·         Now that Pennsylvania’s fourteen so-called “public” universities are actually 75% private, financially speaking, it is instructive to compare PASSHE universities with universities that are 100% private.

·         For example, the individuals normally selected to hold seats on the governance boards of private universities tend to be citizens who have donated to the universities for the benefit of the students; while the individuals normally selected to hold seats on PASSHE’s governance boards tend to be citizens who have donated to various political campaigns for the benefit of the politicians.

·         In this sense, the politicians involved in the 100% control of the fourteen PASSHE universities are actually competing against the students for donations from PASSHE governance board members.

·         During my 20 years as a PASSHE university president, I worked with many different individuals who had been appointed to my university’s Council of Trustees.  And although many wonderful people were appointed, and although we were successful in developing a “culture of philanthropy” at our university that raised $55 million dollars in private donations over my twenty years, generally speaking, only a tiny fraction of that amount was donated by members of our Council of Trustees.

·         Most of the private donations to the university, for the benefit of our students, came from the university’s Foundation Board members—who were not political appointees but were appointed by a self-perpetuating private 501-c-3 non-profit corporation that existed solely for the benefit of the university.  These board members were mostly successful university alumni who came back to their alma mater to help the university they loved by providing scholarships for students.    

To be continued.

Monday, June 13, 2016

The Gentrification of Public Higher Education


The Power of Words

We concluded last week’s blog post with a reference to the word “gentrification” as it applies to the fourteen PASSHE universities in Pennsylvania.  They include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester universities.



As suggested last time, the pleasant-sounding word “gentrification” masks both a cruel and ugly reality.



The cruel side of that reality may be seen in the devastating outcomes which the policy choice known as “gentrification” imposes upon students from Pennsylvania’s least-affluent families.



The ugly side of that reality is seen in the self-serving motives and lawless actions by the elected and appointed officials—both Democrat and Republican—who have continued to impose their gentrification policy choice on PASSHE students since 2002.



These two sides of the “gentrification reality” are inextricably linked by means of the following heading and text, paraphrased from my 2013 book entitled Privatization Without a Plan



Malfeasance with Personal and Tragic Consequences



Privatization Without a Plan is a story about public malfeasance leading to personal and tragic consequences.  To be clear malfeasance, from Dictionary.com, is “the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law.”

Also to be clear, the public officials in question include Pennsylvania elected officials, appointed officials, and senior policy executives, arranged in a hierarchy in which elected officials select the appointed officials, and the appointed officials select and direct the senior policy executives.    

The malfeasance cited in Privatization Without a Plan was easy to document because the flawed actions by the public officials in question violated not just the spirit but the letter of the law.

The personal consequences, however, are difficult to document because they involve things that did not happen as a result of the malfeasance of Pennsylvania public officials: e.g., the deserving students who did not graduate; the worthy alumni who could not afford to start a business; and the other students and alumni who could not afford to support a family.  Although personal and tragic, these kinds of stories can’t be easily documented or summarized. 

Privatization Without a Plan documents succinctly that the Act 188 statutory purpose of the PASSHE state-owned universities “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,” has not been provided to Pennsylvania’s students since 2002, reducing the promise of Act 188 to empty words for those students and alumni.

This is not a failure of law, but rather a failure of Pennsylvania public officials to obey the law.

The evidence for a failure to obey the law is seen in the fact that since 2002, the public officials with authority over the PASSHE system of 14 “state-owned” universities have been totally fixated on maintaining the lowest possible tuition, i.e., sticker price, when the law, Act 188, explicitly requires a focus on the lowest possible cost to the students, i.e., bottom line.

Recall Mark Twain’s dictum: “The difference between the right word and the almost right word is like the difference between lightning and the lightning bug.”  And so it is in this case as well.

That one egregious and misguided failure alone, substituting “tuition” for “cost to the students”—which makes the cost of attendance too high, and the burden of crushing student-loan debt too unbearable—leads directly to deserving students who don’t graduate, worthy alumni who can’t afford to start a business, and other students and alumni who can’t afford to support a family.

The Cruel Side of Gentrification



Stripped of all disguise, the gentrification policy imposed on Pennsylvania students by the PASSHE Board of Governors since 2002 has had the following consequences:

·         Students from Pennsylvania’s least-affluent families are condemned to one of two terrible fates:  1) years of crushing student-loan debt for students lucky enough to gain admission despite substantial financial obstacles; or worse 2) the inability to even attend a PASSHE university because the BOG’s gentrification policy creates financial obstacles for them that are simply too enormous to overcome.

·         Students in group 1) will have their lives and future prospects diminished, or at least postponed, by their student-loan debt, though in time they may be able to overcome such setbacks and achieve their dreams.  But the college-prepared students in group 2) who are being denied access to a college education—not because of academic deficiencies but rather because of insurmountable financial obstacles—will find their lifetime opportunities few, and their future prospects bleak.



The Ugly Side of Gentrification



The ugly side of the gentrification policy being imposed on students by the PASSHE Board of Governors involves not just the lawless actions taken by the BOG to enforce its policy, but also the obvious banality of the motives of the elected and appointed officials—both Democrat and Republican—who have relentlessly continued to impose this gentrification policy choice on PASSHE students since 2002.



As to why elected and appointed officials on the PASSHE Board of Governors would defy Act 188 by ignoring the mandates of Act 188, only one answer seems clear:  They must clearly be benefitting from their defiance of the law because for sure, the kinds of students for whom public higher education was created—students from less-affluent families—are clearly not benefitting from this law-defying policy.



Tragically, the only students benefitting from the PASSHE BOG’s gentrification policy are students from Pennsylvania’s more-affluent families.  And these are families receiving a totally unneeded State subsidy when in fact they can afford to pay a much higher sticker price, but are not being asked to do so by this gentrification-promoting Board of Governors.



If denying admission to qualified students from less-affluent families is one perverse consequence of the BOG’s gentrification policy, then giving State subsidies to wealthier students as they increasingly replace those less-affluent students in PASSHE classrooms is clearly an even more perverse consequence.


To be continued.


¹ https://www.amazon.com/Privatization-Without-Plan-Leadership-Pennsylvania/dp/1491295244/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1465587886&sr=1-1&keywords=privatization+without+a+plan+-+armenti