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University Review Could Lead To Some College Closings

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- The budget deficit is affecting how much Pennsylvania can give to its state-owned universities.

The chancellor of the system is proposing a review that could lead to some big changes to keep them afloat.

"The way we've always done things simply isn't good enough anymore," Chancellor Frank Brogan of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) said in Harrisburg on Thursday morning.

"Change is on the horizon."

With those words, Brogan, who oversees the fourteen state universities, announced a sweeping review of Pennsylvania's public higher education system that could lead to the closing or merger of one or more of five area schools: California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana, and Slippery Rock.

"We're facing several consistent challenges," said Brogan. "One is the decline in enrollment generally speaking. We see that as a direct result of the baby boom echo -- the fact that there are just less college age students."

Just when the state legislature cut back state funding, student enrollment dropped more than ten percent.

In this region over the last six years, California is down nearly 1,900 students, Clarion is down 2,100, Edinboro is down 2,500, and Indiana is down 2,300.

(Photo Credit: KDKA)

Only Slippery Rock held its own with no student losses.

Competition is keen, says college counselor Megan Colt, who advises high school students at Chartiers Valley High School.

"Now you have to have the lazy river, you have to have the climbing wall. Dining services have to have the sushi bar, so they're competing against a lot of private schools that have all the bells and whistles."

Private schools also offer more scholarships to even the costs, while community colleges cut the state school price in half.

In their strategic review, Board chair Cynthia Shapira says everything is on the table but, "Any conclusions whatsoever are completely premature."

PASSHE hopes to have the review completed later this year.

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