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Tough Words For Pennsylvania's Higher Education System

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Amid talks of raising tuition, consultants hired to review the state's system of higher education delivered their report today.

There were tough words about Pennsylvania's public system of higher education from the consultant group hired to conduct a thorough review but rather limited suggestions on how to change it.

"I am sure that we disappointed folks that we didn't get more radical," admitted Dennis Jones at the end of his presentation.

Jones with the National Center of Higher Education Management Systems told the board of governors that oversees the state's 14 public universities that there are no easy solutions.

"You don't have silver bullets in higher education. You've used those up," he said.

The consultants -- paid $400,000 for the review -- concluded that none of the state's schools should be closed or merged.

"Don't close institutions. Closing institutions flies directly in the face of providing access to the students you are supposed to serve."

But in finding after finding, the study criticized the governance, high costs, and misplaced focus on jobs over education.

"We hear a lot from the campus folks that the real important thing here is jobs. It's economic development, not education services."

And with high school graduates declining and more competition from other schools, raising tuition hurts enrollment when half the students come from families with incomes under $48,000.

"It's going to be easy to raise price to the point where you drive down enrollment which is exactly what you don't want to do," said Jones.

But that is exactly what the board of governors is poised to do this week, raising tuition 3.5 percent.

So the conclusion?

"Governance is not up to the current challenges. I think this is the core of what we concluded," said Jones.

The board of governors said Wednesday that they will review the report and make their own recommendations, some of which may require legislative action.

Speaking of the legislature, the consultants noted that Pennsylvania ranks 46th, almost dead last, in the amount of support lawmakers give higher education.

Given current budget conditions, that's not likely to change.


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