April 26, 2021
Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts Amherst
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) comprises 14 public universities across the state. The PASSHE universities are key institutions in their respective regions. These universities give access to higher education for an overwhelmingly in-state student body and provide a major anchor of high-quality unionized and professional employment in a range of occupations. The PASSHE universities have embarked on a radical restructuring under the rubric of Chancellor Greenstein’s “System Redesign.” Large cuts in staffing, both of faculty and of professional and classified staff in good unionized jobs, constitute the core of the restructuring. The cuts, amounting to 14 percent of overall PASSHE employment, are of a magnitude equivalent to the largest private-sector plant closings and mass layoffs of the previous decade in Pennsylvania. This study documents that the cuts and their spillover effects will have a substantial negative impact on the Pennsylvania economy. The largest negative impacts in terms of job loss and revenue decline will be in the economic regions near each university that is facing job cuts. These job cuts will have their most severe impact on women. This is because women constitute large majorities of both the student body of the PASSHE universities and of the untenured faculty on staff.
|FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
April 27, 2021
Contact: Kirstin Snow, email@example.com
New Report Shows Disastrous Economic Impact of PA State System of Higher Education Suggested Consolidations
PASSHE Cuts Would Devastate Local Economies and Workforces
Harrisburg, PA—Today at 10:30 am, Marc Stier, director of the PA Budget and Policy Center and report co-author Michael Ash of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at UMass-Amherst provided an overview of the results of a new study that lays bare the disastrous effects of the proposed consolidation of Pennsylvania’s 14 public universities. These negative effects would continue Pennsylvania’s long-term disinvestment in higher education and reinforce the downward spiral of counties already hammered by reduced manufacturing jobs in previous decades. It is a misguided strategy when the nation is on the cusp of a major reinvestment in more affordable higher education, which could increase enrollments and economic renewal in the regions of PASSHE universities.
The PASSHE universities have embarked on a radical restructuring under the rubric of Chancellor Greenstein’s “System Redesign.” Large cuts in staffing, both of faculty and of professional and classified staff in good unionized jobs, constitute the core of the restructuring. The cuts, amounting to 14 percent of overall PASSHE employment, are of a magnitude equivalent to the largest private-sector plant closings and mass layoffs decade in Pennsylvania—many of which took place in rural and western counties that would take another hit under the PASSHE plan.
This new study documents that:
“Enrollment at PASSHE schools has been driven down by one of the highest tuition rates in the country,” said Marc Stier, director of the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center. “Historically, PASSHE schools have been engines of upward mobility for first-generation college students but, in the past two decades, as fewer working people have been able to afford tuition, more PASSHE enrollment comes from affluent families.”
Michael Ash, report co-author, said, “The employment cuts will have negative effects on students, staff and faculty, PASSHE host communities, and the Commonwealth. The cuts are very large — on par with plant closures and shift eliminations that have already greatly harmed Pennsylvania and will further reduce opportunity for the citizens of Pennsylvania. The regions closest to the PASSHE universities will experience especially large effects of the PASSHE employment reductions.”
“One reason these cuts will reinforce long-term decline,” said economist and executive director of the Keystone Research Center, Stephen Herzenberg, “is that many of the faculty will leave the area to find an equivalent job. Many people in non-faculty positions will be unlikely to find other good union jobs, with family supporting wages and benefits. This is not the way to reimagine Indiana County—or any other Pennsylvania county.”
Stier closed by pointing out: “The state needs to reinvest in higher education instead of continuing 40 years of disinvestment. The well-being of the counties and regions that house many of the State System campuses depends on that: will they spiral down or will the state help them revitalize? It is stunning that the State System wants to cry ‘surrender’ and double down an a failed four-decade disinvestment just two days before President Biden is likely to announce an unprecedented investment in college affordability.”
|The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center is a nonpartisan policy research project that provides independent, credible analysis on state tax, budget and related policy matters, with attention to the impact of current or proposed policies on working families.|