Monday, April 20, 2015

A PASCU Chapter at Each PASSHE University - Part 3

                                                                              John Adams (1735-1826)

America’s second president, John Adams, is often cited for the above quote, which I learned in school as a 12-year old.  The implication of those words was that not only were all men created equal, but the laws of our government would be applied equally—a very comforting thought.
 
It never occurred to me until forty years later, as a PASSHE University president, that not only were there cases where laws weren’t applied equally, there were actually cases where laws weren’t applied at all!  This latter failure was something I had never seen before, but the evidence for it was so plentiful and undeniable that it introduced me to the word “malfeasance.”
 
Malfeasance

From Dictionary.com, “Malfeasance is the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law.”  If a group of public officials decided to ignore the law, without a public explanation of any kind, what could be more contrary to law than that?
 
And that is exactly the situation the evidence was forcing me to face—public officials plainly ignoring a law that hundreds of thousands PASSHE students, parents and alumni were seriously counting on.
 
                                                                                             Frank Zappa (1940-1993)
 
In the two centuries between the births of John Adams and Frank Zappa, much had changed in America.  Sadly, Zappa’s cynical modification of Adams’ quote appears recently to be all too true.
 
In previous blog posts we have described the failure of the PASSHE Board of Governors—consisting solely of elected officials and appointees of elected officials—to preserve or deliver the Act 188 statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania: “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”  Our goal in this blog is not to rehash the evidence but, instead, to itemize and discuss the options available to citizens whose elected officials ignore the law.       

Legislative Censure and Impeachment

Example 1: The Federal Level.  United States’ presidents take an oath of office to support and defend the Constitution of the United States which, it is said, also contains an implicit obligation for every citizen, including the president, to obey the duly enacted laws of the land.  The U.S. Constitution gives Congress the power to censure or to impeach a president for alleged misdeeds.
 
Censure is a public rebuke of the president which can come from either the House or Senate while impeachment, which is an indictment emanating from the House, leads to the president’s trial in the Senate and, upon conviction, would result in the removal of the president from office.
 
President Richard Nixon, for example, was impeached on three counts:  Obstruction of Justice; Abuse of Power; and Contempt of Congress.  Nixon resigned as president on August 9, 1974 thereby avoiding trial in the Senate where his removal from office was widely anticipated.      
 
Example 2: The State Level.  State governors also take oaths of office to support and defend the State’s constitution and, in a manner similar to that at the Federal level, various States enable impeachment of their governor by the legislature according to their respective constitutions.
 
Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was impeached on a single count of “Abuse of power” originating in the House and was subsequently convicted by the Senate in a unanimous (59-0) vote and was removed from office and barred from holding future public office in Illinois.     
 
In both of the above examples, the public outrage that accompanied news reports of their alleged misdeeds was so intense that legislators were strongly motivated to impeach and convict both men.
 
Only three U.S. presidents have ever been impeached: Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon and William Clinton.  Johnson and Clinton were both acquitted by the Senate, and Nixon resigned from office before his trial in the Senate could begin.   
 
Twelve governors have been impeached between 1862 and 2009 and all but two were removed from office or resigned under threat of removal.  Allegations of public corruption were the most common reason for the impeachment of State governors.  
 
The Instant Case

The failure of the PASSHE Board of Governors to preserve and deliver the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania is not likely to result in a legislative censure, much less impeachment, of a sitting Pennsylvania governor for at least two reasons: 1) the policy of ignoring the Act 188 statutory purpose of the 14 PASSHE Universities appears to have solid support by Pennsylvania’s elected officials, both Democrat and Republican, in the Legislature and in the Governor’s mansion; and 2) there has so far been no public outrage over the failure of those elected officials to obey the mandate of Act 188: "High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students."
 
PASSHE has a total of 174 seats on its governance boards.  Five of twenty seats on the Board of Governors are held by elected officials; the remaining fifteen, plus all 154 trustees spread across the 14 Councils of Trustees are appointed through the normal Harrisburg patronage system in which the political supporters of elected officials routinely receive those appointments.
 
The Majority Stakeholders (PASSHE students, parents and alumni donors) provide 75% of PASSHE’s annual revenue; the Minority Stakeholder (the State in the person of its elected and appointed officials) provides 25% of PASSHE’s annual revenue.

The Bottom Line

1.       PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders currently get saddled with “75% Pay and 0% Say;”
2.       PASSHE’s Minority Stakeholders currently enjoy “25% Pay and 100% Say.”
3.       At private universities, individuals get on governance boards by making donations to universities!
4.       At PASSHE universities, individuals get on the governance boards by making donations to politicians!
 
To be continued.

Monday, April 13, 2015

A PASCU Chapter at Each PASSHE University - Part 2

The Nature of PASCU’s Challenge
 
Last week’s blog post compared PASCU’s Mission with PASSHE’s Statutory Purpose and revealed a peculiar irony:  PASCU seeks to preserve and deliver something which is already mandated by law!
 
Doesn’t that make PASCU somewhat redundant, if not totally unnecessary?  Let’s see.
 
Recall that, according to Act 188, the purpose of the PASSHE System of 14 Universities shall be: “To provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”
 
From Merriam-Webster, “When found in laws, the word shall is used to express what is mandatory.”
 
For that reason, PASCU’s Mission sounds easy to fulfill—provided only that we assume that things mandated by law must already be happening—without PASCU’s or anyone else’s help.
 
Under that assumption, of course, there would be no need for a non-partisan, non-profit group such as PASCU, because the mandated statutory purpose of the PASSHE System of 14 Universities—unless the law were repealed or amended—would already be in effect.
 
Unfortunately, despite being mandated by Act 188, the elected and appointed officials who control PASSHE have neither preserved nor delivered the statutory purpose of the PASSHE Universities to the students since 2002!  As shocking as this assertion may be, the evidence for it is overwhelming.
 
Specifically, the failure of the Board of Governors to provide high quality education¹ is found in Chart 9; and its failure to provide it at the lowest possible cost to the students² is found in Chart 20.
 
But the truth of the above assertion—that the leaders of PASSHE have neither preserved nor delivered its statutory purpose since 2002—gives PASCU its most troubling challenge: How to deal with the apparent malfeasance by PASSHE officials?
 
From Dictionary.com, “Malfeasance is the performance by a public official of an act that is legally unjustified, harmful, or contrary to law.”
 
Malfeasance in this case is easy to document because the flawed actions by the elected and appointed officials in question violated not just the spirit but the letter of the law!
 
The term “high quality education” is given meaning primarily through a number of proxy measures.

For example, average faculty salaries have been used extensively by “rating magazines” as a proxy measure for academic quality.  Those magazines have also used E&G Revenue/FTE Student as a proxy measure for the quality of the educational experience, which includes academic quality but goes on to include other educationally enhancing amenities such as technology, travel, internships, facilities and equipment—all of which, just as with faculty salaries—require financial resources. 
 
In 2011, financial aid packages for students at “All Institutions” across America contained 51% Grants and 42% Loans; while for typical PASSHE students they contained 27% Grants and 65% Loans.

By 2013, financial aid packages at All Institutions across America had improved to 52% Grants and 39% loans; while at typical PASSHE schools they had regressed even further to 25% Grants and 66% Loans.
  
While it is clear that fewer grants and more loans than the average of All Institutions across America can only mean that PASSHE students are not getting their education at anything like the lowest possible cost to the students, the actual dollar differences can be shocking.
 
If PASSHE financial aid packages were improved just enough to meet the average—which is not even close to the lowest possible cost to the students—PASSHE students would save on average $1,433/semester and $11,500 over four years, a truly substantial saving.  

Opportunities for Involvement

The officers at each of the individual PASCU Chapters will be invited to accept governance seats within PASCU’s statewide governance structure, which includes a Board of Directors, a Student Leadership Council, a Parent Leadership Council, and an Alumni Leadership Council.  PASCU’s four governance bodies are designed to draw equal representation from each of the 14 PASSHE Universities. (See below.) 
   
To better understand why students, parents and alumni donors from each one of the fourteen PASSHE Universities should get involved with PASCU by creating, launching and maintaining a PASCU Chapter at each PASSHE University, one must first appreciate the challenge faced by every law-abiding citizen who realizes that their elected and appointed officials are simply choosing to ignore the law that promises them something which they both care about and are largely paying for by themselves:  “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”
 
Their challenge is PASCU’s Challenge, and we will return next week to a discussion of the ways in which to deal successfully with the challenge of elected and appointed officials who choose to ignore the law.  

PASCU’s Governance Goal

PASCU’s governance goal is to identify and place PASSHE Majority Stakeholders (students, parents and alumni) into PASCU governance seats with equal representation from across all 14 PASSHE universities.

PASCU’s Governance Structure

·         On the Board of Directors

Ø  One student from each university = 14

Ø  One parent from each university = 14

Ø  One alumna/alumnus from each university = 14

·         On the Student Leadership Council

Ø  Three students from each university = 42

·         On the Parent Leadership Council

Ø  Two parents from each university = 28

·         On the Alumni Leadership Council

Ø  Two alumni from each university = 28

Summary
 
PASCU has governance openings for a total of 14+42=56 PASSHE Students

PASCU has governance openings for a total of 14+28=42 PASSHE Parents

PASCU has governance openings for a total of 14+28=42 PASSHE Alumni

When every PASCU governance seat is filled, a total of 56+42+42 = 140 Majority Stakeholders would be serving on PASCU’s Four Governance Boards.  This level of representation will go a long way in passing the “legal standing” test that PASCU will need to pass to be recognized as the Voice of—and represent the interests of—PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders, a group that now includes approximately 100,000+ students, plus 200,000+ parents/guardians, plus 500,000 PASSHE alumni who live in Pennsylvania.
 
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.

Monday, April 6, 2015

A PASCU Chapter at Each PASSHE University

Recent blog posts have focused on the relationship between PASSHE and PASCU up to this moment in time.  We will now focus on the need for a more intimate relationship between PASCU and the Majority Stakeholders at the 14 PASSHE Universities—that is, the Students, Parents and private donors, primarily Alumni—who together now provide 75% of the annual revenue at each of the PASSHE Universities.  The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, now the Minority Stakeholder, is providing just 25% of the annual revenue.
 
When fully developed, this new relationship between PASCU and PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders will manifest itself with the presence of a viable PASCU Chapter at each of the fourteen PASSHE Universities.

The Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU)
PASCU’s Mission

“To ensure that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania as specified by Act 188 of 1982: ‘High Quality Education at the Lowest Possible Cost to the Students,’ is indefinitely preserved and faithfully delivered.”

The Pennsylvania Promise

The ‘Pennsylvania Promise’ is the promise freely given—by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the Students of Pennsylvania—upon passing Act 188 with PASSHE’s very explicit statutory purpose.  In short:

The Pennsylvania Promise is “High Quality Education at the Lowest Possible Cost to the Students.”

Why is PASCU Needed?

There would be no need for a non-profit organization of concerned citizens such as PASCU if, in fact, the PASSHE Board of Governors were delivering ‘high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,’ as mandated by Act 188.  But the Board of Governors is not delivering the “Pennsylvania Promise” and, for that reason, PASCU is desperately needed to help rectify a grave ongoing injustice. 

Compelling evidence for the failure of PASSHE’s Board of Governors to deliver “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students” since 2002 was just presented in the five previous blog posts.  
Act 188

Act 188 of 1982 was the enabling legislation that created the public corporation now known as the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), which controls the 14 “PASSHE” universities that include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities.
 
PASCU’s Goals and Objectives

·        To preserve the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania – high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students—through education and advocacy, by reaching out to all stakeholders of Pennsylvania public higher education:  students, parents, alumni, donors, faculty, staff, elected and appointed officials, and the general public.

·       To promote the legal rights of that segment of society which includes all PASSHE students, parents and donors, primarily alumni who, as a group, have contributed the majority of the annual funding to the PASSHE universities in Pennsylvania starting since 1992 and continuing to the present time.

·       To collect, analyze and disseminate data and information on public higher education in Pennsylvania to all of its many stakeholders, with the goal of fostering open discussion, civil debate, and effective public policy.

·       To function as a non-partisan association of citizens committed to preserving the historic purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania so that individual students, communities, and society at large may be enriched in perpetuity.
·      To launch and maintain a tireless and effective education campaign to inform PASSHE students, parents, alumni, donors and the general public about the drastic changes that have occurred to public higher education since the creation of the PASSHE system of universities by Act 188 of 1982.

·        To encourage PASCU’s key constituencies—PASSHE students, parents and donors, primarily alumni, as well as others who share PASCU’s values—to make local and statewide elected officials and candidates for office aware that they support the mission, goals and objectives of PASCU and that they ask their elected officials and candidates for public office to do the same.     
·       To engage in direct advocacy, to the degree permitted by law, by lobbying both the elected officials in the Legislative and Executive branches of Pennsylvania government, as well as candidates for such elected office, to support PASCU’s mission, goals and objectives.  

PASCU Chapters
In view of the Mission, Goals and Objectives just cited, it is clear that for PASCU to be successful, key focal points for PASCU’s efforts must be created at or near each of the fourteen PASSHE universities.  A key goal then for the 2015-16 academic year and beyond is the creation, promulgation and ongoing maintenance of a PASCU Chapter linked to and associated with each of the 14 PASSHE universities.

Experience teaches that the most effective PASCU Chapters will be those created and run mostly by current PASSHE students, with the input and support of PASSHE parents and PASSHE alumni donors. 
The role of these 14 PASCU Chapters will be both essential and unique. The Chapters will be essential because without them, the achievement of PASCU’s Mission could be delayed several more decades.  

The Chapters will also be unique in that the purpose of each Chapter is to be a center for civil, non-partisan conversation and debate—among the Majority Stakeholders, i.e. the students, parents and alumni donors who now provide 75% of PASSHE’s annual revenue—regarding not just the general future of the 14 PASSHE universities but, more specifically, the future of each individual PASSHE university.
Recall that PASSHE’s Minority Stakeholders, the State of Pennsylvania in the person of its elected and appointed officials, currently provide just 25% of PASSHE’s annual revenue while controlling 100% of PASSHE’s 174 governance seats where all key decisions affecting the Majority Stakeholders are made. 

The purpose of each PASCU Chapter—and the Majority Stakeholders who will occupy its ranks—is to stand up for and champion the best interests of the PASSHE university with which they are associated while, at the same time, championing the best interests of the Majority Stakeholders at each university who are currently paying 75% of the bills while controlling 0% of PASSHE’s 174 governance seats.
You may think of it this way:

·         PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders currently get saddled with “75% Pay and 0% Say;” while

·         PASSHE’s Minority Stakeholders currently get to operate with “25% Pay and 100% Say.”
If you’re OK with that arrangement, just “Move along; there’s nothing to see here.”  But if that arrangement strikes you as un-American, consider starting or joining a PASCU Chapter at a PASSHE university that you care about.

To be continued.

Monday, March 30, 2015

The Relationship Between PASSHE and PASCU - Part 5

Here are three potential private interests for every governor—regardless of party—for artificially holding down PASSHE tuition rates:

1.       Tuition rate hikes at PASSHE universities can generate negative media coverage for the Governor;
2.       Keeping PASSHE tuition rates artificially low, it was hoped by many Pennsylvania Governors, would force Penn State and the other “State-Related” universities to hold down their tuitions.  That effort has been an abject failure on two scores: a) it failed to hold down state-related tuition rates; and b) the revenue lost to the PASSHE universities as a result of decisions based on political expediency rather than economics is responsible for the failure of the Board of Governors to deliver either end of PASSHE’s statutory purpose: high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”

3.       A third powerful private interest of governors from both parties wanting to keep PASSHE tuitions artificially low is their desire to avoid large financial losses from Pennsylvania’s 529 Guaranteed Savings Plan in which parents can purchase college credits at today’s rates for a newborn infant who won’t go to college for another 18 years.  When those plans were first introduced across America, the economy was so strong and the return on investment was so high that a State could invest those dollars and more than make up for the growth in tuition when those tuition bills would have to be paid 18 years later.  But since the economy slumped and returns on investment have fallen, many states are no longer accepting new applicants to their 529 programs because of the financial losses.¹   

The Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU)
 
The powerful demographic forces described previously, combined with the economic downturn that followed the Great Recession, suggest strongly that the steady decline in State funding to “public higher education” is not likely to be reversed anytime soon, and that what ails the PASSHE Universities and the Students who rely on them will not be solved by wishing in vain for State dollars that, for good reason, are no longer available to those stakeholders who care about and depend upon public higher education.

In other words, in a democratic republic with majority rule, like ours, one sometimes ends up in the minority with regard to key public policy decisions—such as how best to spend limited taxpayer dollars.  Unfortunately, the 30% of American households that can now benefit directly from public higher education constitute a distinct minority as far as additional State funding is concerned.
 
For that reason PASCU’s approach to accomplishing its mission: “To ensure that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania as specified by Act 188 of 1982: “High Quality Education at the Lowest Possible Cost to the Students,” is indefinitely preserved and faithfully delivered,” is not based on futile demands for more State money, but rather on legitimate demands for justice in terms of proper Majority Stakeholder representation on PASSHEs governance boards.
 
The 14 PASSHE universities are already 75% private—as far as funding is concerned.  Those paying 75% of PASSHE’s bills need to have their voices heard by controlling a governance share on PASSHE’s Board of Governors and 14 Councils of Trustees roughly comparable to their funding share. 
Privatization Without Representation

PASCU believes that the relentless privatization of public higher education in Pennsylvania and across America is inevitable due to powerful demographic and economic forces previously described.  
 
But representation is a political matter, one that is subject to change through the ballot box as well as through the intervention of the Federal Courts.  Three decades of ongoing “Privatization Without Representation” in Pennsylvania public higher education is just another name for tyranny.
 
But that awful tyranny is not inevitable if only the Majority Stakeholders decide to be heard, and stand up for themselves.  That’s where PASCU comes in.  PASCU seeks to become the legitimate voice of PASSHE’s Majority Stakeholders who are currently disenfranchised.     

PASCU seeks to promote the legal rights of that segment of society which includes all PASSHE students, parents and donors, primarily alumni who, as a group have provided the majority of the annual funding to the PASSHE System and the fourteen PASSHE universities since 1992. 
According to published reports, 112,000 students currently attend PASSHE universities and 450,000 PASSHE alumni currently live in Pennsylvania.

There would clearly be no need for a non-profit organization of concerned citizens such as PASCU if, in fact, The Board of Governors were delivering high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students, as mandated by Act 188.  But the Board of Governors is not delivering the Pennsylvania Promise and, for that reason, PASCU is desperately needed to help rectify that grave injustice. 
Act 188 promises “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”  It is clear² from Chart 9 that students at the 14 PASSHE universities are getting a “dubious quality education” instead of a “high quality education” and, as Chart 20 shows,³ they are not getting it at anything like the “lowest possible cost to the students.”  They are not even getting an “average” financial aid package, which would be an average of a distribution of financial aid packages, ranging from the best (i.e., at the lowest cost to the students) at one extreme, to the worst (i.e., at the highest cost to the students).
In summary, the data show that both ends of public higher education's statutory purpose have suffered.  Specifically, academic quality has been undermined, and twelve years of a politically expedient focus on the “lowest possible tuition,” i.e., “sticker price,” have failed to provide public higher education at anything like the “lowest possible cost to the students,” i.e., “bottom line”—as called for and mandated by Act 188.  And, to make matters worse, PASSHE’s errant policy focus on “lowest possible tuition” saddles poor students with punishing debt and foolishly rewards wealthy students with state subsidies.⁴
 
¹ http://www.bankrate.com/finance/college-finance/college-529-prepaid-tuition-plans-at-risk-1.aspx.
² https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6794551/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-9-and-caption-january-23-2014-pdf-387k.
³ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6802256/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-20-and-caption-january-29-2014-pdf-390k.
https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6777152/pittsburgh-post-gazette-pres-ed-5-7-10-pdf-98k.

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Relationship Between PASSHE and PASCU - Part 4

It is reasonable to ask if the statistical financial aid data from one PASSHE university is similar to that of the others.  A separate analysis was done to compare the financial aid packages of the 14 PASSHE universities with each other using the IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System), which is part of NCES (the National Center for Education Statistics).  That comparison showed that the financial aid packages at California University were typical of those at the other 13 PASSHE universities.
 
The Financial Aid comparison between a typical PASSHE university (California University) and All Institutions in America actually got worse after 2011, the last year of data included in Chart 20.¹
 
Between 2011 and 2013, the financial aid packages at All Institutions improved from 51% grants to 52% grants; and from 42% loans to 39% loans; while at the same time, the financial aid packages at California University deteriorated from 27% grants to 25% grants, and from 65% loans to 66% loans.
 
If PASSHE were to provide financial aid packages equal to just the average package across America, each PASSHE student would save $1,433 per semester, $2,866 per year, and $11,464 over four years!  And that would only bring PASSHE students to the average financial aid package in America, which is nowhere near the financial aid packages needed to yield the “lowest possible cost to the students.”

PASSHE’s Failure to Obey the Law (Act 188)
 
Both of the failures cited previously—the failure to provide high quality education, as well as the failure to provide it at the lowest possible cost to the students—stem from the singularly inexplicable failure of the PASSHE Board of Governors since 2002 to simply obey the law, Act 188,² as written.
 
In simple terms Act 188 says—when it comes to funding—that: 1) the Governor and the Legislature get to decide how much State support the Commonwealth can afford to provide to PASSHE in any given year; and 2) The Board of Governors then gets to decide how high the tuition rates must be set in order “To do and perform generally all of those things necessary and required to accomplish the role and objectives of the System,” as the BOG is legally required to do by Section 20-2006-A(a)(15) of Act 188. 
 
And, presumably, accomplishing the Act 188 statutory purpose of the PASSHE universities: “To provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,” would be one of the first “things necessary and required to accomplish the role and objectives of the System.”
 
Although the Board of Governors has the legal authority, from Section 20-2006-A(a)(11) of Act 188, “To fix the levels of tuition fees,” and despite the fact that the law does not require or even mention any role for the Governor in the tuition-setting process, the Board of Governors has for the 20-year period between  1992 to 2012 anxiously awaited—together with the 14 PASSHE university presidents—the Governor’s word as to the maximum allowable tuition rate increase for that year! 
 
Why would 20 different Boards of Governors with slightly varying membership defer every year for 20 years to five different governors, both Democrat and Republican—when it came to one of their most important sworn duties—to set tuition rates in such a way as to provide “high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students?”  Why would they let the Governor decide that issue politically, when Act 188 gives that responsibility not to the Governor, but to the Board of Governors?
 
While the reason must clearly be political—since it always involved the Governor—it is just as clearly not partisan—since it involved governors from both parties serving roughly equal time in office in the years between 1992 and 2012.

Divided Loyalty/Conflict of Interest
 
When elected or appointed officials fail to perform sworn duties, it raises a question of divided loyalty, otherwise known as conflict of interest, which Merriam-Webster defines as “A conflict between the private interests and the official responsibilities of a person in a position of trust.”
 
Earlier, we mentioned a 20-year history of Pennsylvania governors getting directly involved in the annual tuition-setting process for the PASSHE universities, and always with an insistence on the lowest possible tuition, even though the law calls instead for the lowest possible cost to the students, a very different thing.  A specific source of suspicion is that a governor’s preference for lowest possible tuition rates may have more to do with private political interests than his official duties as a member of the PASSHE Board of Governors—the dictionary definition of a conflict of interest.
 
Act 188 does not call for the lowest possible PASSHE tuition, i.e., sticker price.  It calls for the lowest possible cost to the students, i.e., bottom line.  The practice by governors, and compliant BOG members, to focus on the lowest possible sticker price instead of the lowest possible bottom line suggests either that they haven’t read the law, which is very unlikely, or that governors may have a private interest in keeping the PASSHE sticker price as low as possible. 

There are at least three potential private interests for every governor, regardless of party, for artificially holding down PASSHE tuition rates.    
To be continued.

² https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6772880/act188-pdf-405k.

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Relationship Between PASSHE and PASCU - Part 3


As we saw previously, PASSHE’s statutory purpose, i.e., its purpose by law—from Act 188¹ of 1982—is “To provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.”
 
Earlier, we defined the “Pennsylvania Promise” to be “The promise freely given—by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania to the students of Pennsylvania—upon the passage of Act 188 with PASSHE’s very explicit  statutory purpose: ‘High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.’”
 
Sad to say, the Pennsylvania Promise to PASSHE students has become a broken promise since 2002, as the following compelling evidence will confirm:
 
PASSHE’s Failure to Deliver High Quality Education

In higher education circles—including the “Rating Magazines” that provide “Rankings” of America’s colleges and universities—the term “high-quality education” is given meaning primarily through a number of proxy measures where, generally speaking, a proxy measure approximates or represents a phenomenon in the absence of a direct measure of that phenomenon.

E.g., average faculty compensation has been widely used as a predictive proxy measure for academic quality. Similarly, E&G (Educational and General) revenue/FTE student has been used as a predictive proxy measure for the quality of the educational experiencewhich includes academic quality—but goes on to include other educationally enhancing amenities such as technology, travel, internships, facilities and equipment, all of which—just as with faculty compensation—require financial resources.
The best evidence for the failure of the PASSHE Board of Governors to deliver high quality education to PASSHE students since 2002 is seen in Chart 9 on Page 35 of the book Privatization Without a Plan
 
That chart depicts the trend in Total E&G Revenue/FTE student over the past 30 years, where the revenue is expressed in (constant) 2013 dollars, thereby eliminating inflationary effects over time. 
 
Note from Chart 9 that Total E&G revenue is the sum of two parts: State appropriation/FTE student, plus Tuition + Fees + Other (TFO) Revenue/FTE student.   Tuition and Fees are the monies paid directly by students, while “Other” Revenue includes private scholarship dollars often provided by alumni donors.
 
As a proxy measure for the quality of the total educational experience—including both in-class and out-of-class aspects—changes in the Total E&G Revenue/FTE Student also reveal how the quality of that experience has varied over the past 30 years, as the relative shares of State appropriation/FTE student on the one hand, and TFO revenue/FTE student on the other, rose or fell.
 
Note that appropriation/FTE student fell steadily (from $7,386 to 3,679), while TFO revenue/FTE student increased steadily (from $4,347 to $9,864).  For the first 19 years of PASSHE’s history, increases in TFO revenue/FTE student more than overcame the decline in purchasing power caused as appropriation/FTE student fell.

But in the next 11 years, the annual increases in TFO revenue/FTE student were not large enough to overcome the precipitous drop in State appropriation/FTE student.  And as a result, the proxy measure for the quality of PASSHE’s total educational experience has fallen sharply.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     
The highpoint in Total E&G Revenue/FTE Student—and inferred educational quality—occurred in 2002 and came to $15,115/FTE student, a figure that was 30% higher than the $11,734 figure recorded on day one of the PASSHE system on July 1, 1983.  By 2013, that statistic had fallen to $13,544, a figure that is only 16% higher than the 1983 figure, meaning that the funding and policy trends of those last 11 years have undone half the quality gains of the previous 19 years!

Chart 9 and its caption make it clear that, for the first 19 years of PASSHE’s existence, tuition revenue per FTE student increased sufficiently to more than make up for the decline in State appropriation per FTE student, thereby increasing the total E&G revenue/FTE Student from $11,734 to $15,115.
It is equally clear that in the subsequent 11 years, TFO revenue per FTE student did not increase fast enough to overcome the much steeper decline in State appropriation/FTE student, thereby allowing the 19-year gains in the quality of the educational experience to be eroded by half. 

PASSHE’s Failure to Deliver Education at the Lowest Possible Cost to the Students
While measuring “high quality education” requires a dependence on “proxy measures,” establishing the “lowest possible cost to the students” is directly measurable in terms of comparisons with national data.

Evidence” for PASSHE’s failure to deliver education at the lowest possible cost to the students is best seen in Chart 20 on page 66 of the book Privatization Without a Plan
 
As seen in Chart 20, direct comparisons of student costs may be obtained from organizations such as The College Board which collects data from each institution in America and computes averages for “All Institutions.” Chart 20 provides a direct comparison over a six-year period between the average financial aid packages provided by one PASSHE university, California University of Pennsylvania, and those provided by “All Institutions”—where 75% of all college students in America attend public universities.
 
To be continued.

¹ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6772880/act188-pdf-405k.
² https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6794551/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-9-and-caption-january-23-2014-pdf-387k.
³ https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6802256/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-20-and-caption-january-29-2014-pdf-390k.