PASSHE Chancellor Visits BU (Forum Questions: Part 1)

PASSHE Chancellor John Cavanaugh with Dr. David Soltz at the student discussion, photo courtesy of Justin McDonald
PASSHE Chancellor John Cavanaugh with BU President David Soltz at the student discussion, photo courtesy of Justin McDonald

Chancellor John Cavanaugh of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) came to BU for a brief student forum, while also appearing on President David Soltz’s television show, “Husky Connections.”

Twelve students represented the BU student body from different majors, photo courtesy of Justin McDonald
Twelve students represented the BU student body from different majors, photo courtesy of Justin McDonald

There were 12 students representing varying majors who attended the question and answer forum with the chancellor at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 9 in the Kehr Union Fireside Lounge. The conversation was informal and topics ranged from issues with the Swine Flu (H1N1) vaccine to what type of impact the PASSHE has on the state in general.

Cavanaugh began serving in his current position on July 1, 2008. He overseas the 14 state universites, which have a combined enrollment of more than 112,500 students. PASSHE sets out to increase intellectual wealth of the Commonwealth, to prepare students at all levels for personal and professional success in their lives, and to contribute to the economic, social, and cultural development of Pennsylvania’s communities, the Commonwealth, and the nation, according to its website.

Question: “What is the biggest difference coming from a public university to the PASSHE?”

-Haili Shetler, junior, mass communications major

Answer:

Cavanaugh held a position as president of the University of West Florida before becoming chancellor of the PASSHE.

“The tranisition was actually easy because kind of university was very much like Bloomsburg and the other universities in the state system,” Cavanaugh said.  “So it’s more a matter of scale, than of all capabilities has been enormously helpful in this situation.”

Question: “Early this year you made statements that you expect to see more private funding, for me I think one of the main appeals of the PASSHE schools is just the affordability, so I was wondering, even in the recession right now, I think a lot of people, students and parents alike are kind of reluctant to get involved with the bank systems and loan systems.  Is there any way you could emphasis to make sure the state system remains competitive with the private system?”

-Jessica Dowsett, senior, anthropology major

Answer:

“The companies and individuals who’d like to help students like you to get scholarships and things, so one of the things that we’ve done over the last year, we did this system wide, is talk to large corporations about donating money to turn into scholarships and particularly during these times that’s where we fill them,” Cavanaugh said.  “Untill the budget is done, we have to turn to PHEAA and other sources of student financial aid and all through the budget process we were advocating for PHEAA…So I am going to be talking to Senator Cassey’s staff about how important PHEAA is to us.”

Courtesy of Justin McDonald
Courtesy of Justin McDonald

Question: “With the increase in enrollment of students in the state school system do you think the value and quality of education will improve?”

-Marcus Scales

Answer:

Note: PASSHE universities has seen an increase in enrollment  for the 13th consecutive year and its universities are the lowest cost among all four-year colleges and universities in Pennsylvania, according to PASSHE.

“Absolutely, I think that the fact that so many students are looking at the state system is a reflection of two things,” Cavanaugh said.  “First they’re looking for the quality of the education that we provide we in the state system and when they look at the cost of that high quality education compared to other opportunities that they have to further their education, the combination of the two is unbeatable. ”

“The fact that more and more students are applying now with the mix of programs we have that they might not have heard about.  The more they look at that, the more they realize  we’re high quality, affordable, and in that sense what’s not to like? So we’re very happy to see the focus on mostly students this year and that’s largely driven by transfer students. ”

Question: What can be done to make the transition from community college to a state school an easier process?

-Tasha Jenkins, sophomore, communications major

Answer:

“I had a hand in crafting the bill that is now on the legislature reform to transfer credit to make it a case that students in community college could transfer up to 60 credits, which is essentially going from community college to the state system without hassle and not having to retake the same courses,” Cavanaugh said.  “Many states around the country have  that so they can use it, Pennsylvania does not.  So we can essentially try to catch up on that part.”

“I talked to several people here today and on other campuses about once that transferred credit will pass it, that one of the next steps in the conversation is for universities, community colleges, and different faculties to work together, figure out what the sequence of courses is and then co-recruit and co-admit the students.  So that the student is told, ‘Look you can do the first couple years of community college, but if you do well there, then your automatically

Photo Courtesy of Justin McDonald
Photo Courtesy of Justin McDonald

admitted to Bloomsburg and the other 13 schools in the state system.  There are number of things that we have in the works, I guess that the biggest of them right now is to transfer the credit ruling to move 30 credits to be able to transfer 60.”

Question: “How and why did the Board of Governors decide to increase the cost of tuition?’

-Brian Janiczek, junior, history major

Answer:

“The primary driver of tuition in the public sector is the declining amount of state support and that’s true not only in Pennsylvania, but also the country,” Cavanaugh said.  “If you look at it from the perspective of inflation.  With each year the numbers can get bigger, but if you factor inflation in it can impact your purchasing power or in real dollars you can expect to pay for something is declining.”

“If you look at that over the past 10 years in Pennsylvania, our commission for the state has declined about 23%.  Tuition on the other hand, again going from inflation, has only increased 16%, so our tuition increases have not off set, but the decline in state support.  So what that means is, over that 10-year period,  the amount money we have coming in per student has declined from about $11,000 in 1999 to less than $2,000.  So the linkage here is that what’s coming in from the state and if that’s going down, how do we make up for that revenue?  The only other explicit is tuition.”

The chancellor went on to explain how other states deal with the tuition issue.  An example he used was with Miami-Ohio University and how they used an inner state perspective for its solution.  The institution decided to charge the same cost for tuition for its out-of-state students as its in-state students.  To the extent that the state gives money to its residents, then Miami-Ohio would reduce the tuition by the amount of money the Ohio legislature provides.   Cavanaugh said that the action taken by the university “really drove home the link of in-state support and tuition.”

According to Cavanaugh, the reason why tuition has seen an increase over the last 5 or 6 years is due to the Board’s awareness between how the tuition and the budget of a university is directly influenced by the amount of support supplied by the state legislature.  This year tuition has increased by about 3-4% ($181 per student, according to PASSHE), but the rate of increase has been way below the nation average, according to Cavanaugh.

More questions and answers from the forum will be available on BU Now within the next couple days in a Part II.  Remember to make BU Now part of your daily news diet.

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