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Vote Passes To Consolidate 6 Pennsylvania State Universities

HARRISBURG (KDKA) - It was a unanimous vote for the Pennsylvania Board of Governors Wednesday. After hours of discussion, the board voted to integrate six institutions into two universities.

California University of Pennsylvania is one of the six state schools involved in this integration. Now that this vote is official, Cal U will merge with Edinboro and Clarion, ultimately making them one university. The other three schools are on the eastern side of the state and will also become their own university.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), which oversees these universities, said each school will keep its current name and identity while expanding academic opportunities for students. This essentially means, for example, a student at Cal U could take an online class offered at Clarion. While each campus will go by its original name, they will act as one.

The spokesperson with PASSHE says both universities will be accredited with a single president, single leadership team and a single faculty cohort and athletics will remain on each individual campus. Some students and faculty KDKA's Amy Wadas talked to at Cal U said they are still confused.

"The level of uncertainty with these incoming students, parents and everyone. No one knows what's going to happen in the future," said Cal U senior Brendan Pavlick.

"It uses the wrong model. Education is not a business," said Cal U Psychology Professor Holiday Adair.

"One of the takeaways is you can't make a decision like this and have no one get hurt," said Cal U Band Director and California Borough Mayor Frank Stetar.

Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, who is currently the President of Clarion and the Interim President of Edinboro, is now the Interim President of Cal U.

She said this merger is crucial because it's a way of building the future for students, and will help to expand academic opportunities for students. Concerns that have popped up with this merger are accreditation and athletics, but Dr. Pehrsson is clearing the air about that.

"We have three separate accreditations now and when we become an integrated university, we will have one accreditation but never have a gap in accreditation. They'll always be accredited programs," said Dr. Pehrsson. "We've been working with the NCAA for about a year as well. We will be pursuing a path of three separate athletic programs on each campus to make sure we serve our 1,200 student athletes at three different institutions."

Another concern is how the merger will affect faculty and staff.

Pehrsson said PASSHE will continue to provide incentives with retirements and doesn't anticipate a lot of layoffs.

This integration won't happen overnight. PASSHE said new organizational charts are expected to be released in the coming months as the transition process begins.

Dr. Pehrsson said this year will be an implementation year.

Next summer, the new university will be launched. She said the combined university will have a new name, while the old university names, like Cal U, will be kept as campus names. She said she has a good idea of what the new name will be but can't release it just yet.

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