Amid record enrollment and completion of the Residential Revival student housing project, there’s much to celebrate at IUP, said John Cavanaugh, chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.
But, given the state of the economy, the upcoming pension spike, and changes in leadership in Harrisburg, times are more uncertain than celebratory, he added.
Cavanaugh discussed challenges facing the State System and its universities during an open forum for faculty, staff, and students on Tuesday, September 7, 2010, in the Eberly College of Business and Information Technology.
Building better relationships with the state is key to addressing these problems, Cavanaugh said, and PASSHE leadership has been working toward that end by meeting with the gubernatorial candidates—communicating both what the State System needs and what it has to offer.
“The next four years are important to determining our future,” he said.
Some of the needs Cavanaugh mentioned included allowing faculty to be as entrepreneurial as possible, being on a level playing field with other institutions, and looking outside the traditional methods of funding.
Asked about performance funding and state appropriation, Cavanaugh said that neither is based on enrollment. And, the performance-funding system is being revamped to a new, outcome-based model with half the indicators determined by the institutions, “so improvement is rewarded.”
Cavanaugh also addressed concerns about whether PASSHE’s placement of low-enrolled programs into moratorium and consideration of a common application signaled a move toward specialization of universities and a loss of individual identity.
The decision on low-enrolled programs, Cavanaugh said, was based on fewer graduates coming out of the programs and fewer students declaring those majors—meaning to the System that efforts needed to be placed elsewhere.
“We’re giving people an opportunity to say, ‘This is not working. What if we revamp the program?’”
Regarding specialization, PASSHE is not aiming to force universities out of providing particular programs but rather to showcase an area of expertise as “a pillar of excellence” to the System.
While PASSHE is moving toward a common application for its fourteen member institutions, the change does not mean PASSHE will decide where the application goes, Cavanaugh said. The common application will eliminate the need for students to fill out the same information on many applications. They will complete one application and indicate to which schools in the State System the information is to be sent.
The offering of doctoral programs by universities other than IUP was also discussed. Cavanaugh said that a task force is looking into increasing the number of applied doctoral programs at other institutions but that Ph.D. programs are not part of that discussion.
Other issues Cavanaugh addressed included the expected spike in pension-plan contributions, the challenges to retirement faced by employees on alternative retirement plans, financial reserves, and a mention in Newsweek that PASSHE was considering offering language classes online only, which, Cavanaugh said, was not the case.