What PASSHE Politics Defeating PASSHE Economics Looks LikeThis heading was the final one in last week’s blog post. The text beneath that heading cited just one of many key behaviors revealing how PASSHE politics defeats PASSHE economics every day, namely how Governors from both parties have been deciding PASSHE tuition increases for years, despite the fact that the law, Act 188, assigns that decision not to the Governor but to the PASSHE Board of Governors.
PASSHE’s 14 universities include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.
PASSHE’s “Political” Budget Requests
The Act 188-defying setting of PASSHE annual tuition increases by both Democrat and Republican Governors is not the only example of how PASSHE politics defeats PASSHE economics. PASSHE’s political annual budget request process at the fourteen PASSHE universities is another egregious example.
As a PASSHE university president for twenty years (1992-2012) I witnessed the annual budget request process that was dictated to the fourteen presidents by the PASSHE chancellor who, under Act 188, is the chief executive of the PASSHE system, reporting directly to the Board of Governors. The PASSHE chancellor is also the person to whom each of the 14 university presidents reports on a daily basis.
The financial people in the Office of the Chancellor (OOC) would tell the presidents at the 14 PASSHE universities how to prepare their documents so that their budget requests for the following year would show a degree of shortfall that had been predetermined by OOC—without input from the universities.
That is, the budget requests from the 14 PASSHE universities during the 20 year period 1992-2002 were political (rather than financial) documents having little or no relationship to the economic realities at the fourteen PASSHE universities.
These predetermined university budget requests would then find their way into PASSHE’s official budget request which would be sent by the Chancellor and Board of Governors to the Governor’s Budget Office.
Although one might suspect that PASSHE’s predetermined budget requests might be crafted to request more funding than was actually needed to do the job, the exact opposite was actually the case! Year after year, PASSHE’s budget requests would ask for less funding than was needed to do the job, and year after year, that year’s State appropriation would be even lower than PASSHE’s preset low-ball requests.
And to make matters worse, as State Appropriation continued to fall as a share of PASSHE’s total annual revenue, the Board of Governors since 2002 compounded the problem by adopting its Act 188-defying “Low-Tuition-for-all-Policy,” which acted to similarly reduce the amount of funding coming from tuition.
One result of these terrible decisions by the Board of Governors was to make achievement of PASSHE’s statutory purpose—“High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students”—impossible. Since 2002, political decisions by the Board of Governors have caused the quality of a PASSHE education to plummet while, at the same time, saddling students from less-affluent families with crushing student-loan debt, while foolishly giving unneeded State subsidies to students from more-affluent families!
Budget Request Directive: “We don’t want to embarrass the Governor”
At one of the monthly meetings between Chancellor John Cavanaugh and the fourteen PASSHE presidents with budget requests on the agenda, I asked the following question: “Wouldn’t it be better for everyone concerned if we were totally truthful in our university budget requests as to what we really needed to provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students?” The answer: “We don’t want to embarrass the Governor by asking for more money than the State can afford to give us.”
Ironically, at the time that question was asked and answered, the State was providing only 30% of PASSHE’s annual revenue, while the PASSHE students, parents and alumni donors were providing 70%.
Even more ironic is the fact that neither of the two examples we have given so far in which PASSHE politics defeats PASSHE economics—the Governor (rather than the Board of Governors) deciding PASSHE tuition increases, and PASSHE’s political (rather than fact-based) budget requests—has any legal basis in Act 188, the enabling legislation that created and ostensibly guides the PASSHE universities.
According to Dictionary.com, “malfeasance” is “the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law.” (Emphasis added.)
Both examples above suggest that the PASSHE Board of Governors and the Office of the Chancellor have operated over the years in ways that are contrary to law. Even more compelling on this score is the fact that since 2002, the Board of Governors has failed to deliver either end of PASSHE’s Act 188 statutory purpose, which is: To provide “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”
Chart 9 provides powerful evidence¹ for the huge drop in the educational quality of a PASSHE education since 2002, while Chart 20 provides compelling evidence² for the fact that the Board of Governors has not been providing a PASSHE education at anything like the “lowest possible cost to the students.”
In this case, the malfeasance by PASSHE’s elected and appointed officials is easy to document because their flawed actions violate not just the spirit but the letter of the law.
As shown above, 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 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.
To be continued.
¹ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6794551/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-9-and-caption-january-23-2014-pdf-387k.² https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6802256/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-20-and-caption-january-29-2014-pdf-390k.