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Chancellor Dr. Daniel Greenstein spoke Tuesday at a virtual town hall over Zoom about PASSHE and APSCUF.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s (PASSHE) Chancellor, Dr. Daniel Greenstein, held a virtual town hall meeting for IUP students and staff Tuesday afternoon.

About 300 IUP students and faculty attended the event via Zoom. Meeting participants were encouraged to ask questions directed toward Greenstein, as well as IUP President, Dr. Michael Driscoll.

Recently, PASSHE has been undergoing some big changes as the state system looks to redesign itself to become more financially stable to better assist students.

“Our [Pennsylvania] universities attendance in higher education is third most expensive in the country and 47th in terms of investment,” Greenstein said.

“We are left financially very unstable, both as a system and at several of our universities,” he said.

Much of the student concern expressed during the town hall was related to the termination of various programs at several PASSHE universities, including IUP.

Retrenchment at IUP has effectively eliminated certain departments.

“We have really good programs in the performing arts and the visual arts,” Greenstein said. “I can also tell you that we cannot sustain 14 versions of all of them.

“Its just not possible.”

“There’s a challenge that comes with low-enrolled programs in particular about how to sustain some of those relative to the cost that it brings to high-enrolled programs,” Driscoll said.

However, the decision was not easily made.

“So, while it’s a painful decision, sometimes we have to make a decision to invest in those programs that will bring the benefit to more students, rather than subsidize programs that bring the benefit to fewer students,” Driscoll said.

“There’s not a bad program at IUP. The fact is that we have to make some balanced judgements among those programs as we decide where we can invest.”

Another concern that was at the forefront was Greenstein’s comments about potentially dissolving PASSHE if another solution could not be agreed upon.

“The state will or will not invest in our future, and our future will be determined by that investment decision,” Greenstein said. “We are just beyond the point of leaving it another year.

“I think dissolving the system would be an absolutely horrific idea, but let’s be clear, doing nothing is no longer an option.”

The meeting made clear that PASSHE’s journey toward financial sustainability will not be a quick or easy one and that lots of difficult decisions, like the retrenchment of faculty members and the consolidation of various state schools, would be necessary for this sustainability to be attained.

“It is in our interest for all of us to be sustaining ourselves,” Greenstein said.

“It’s not a quick journey. I wish that I could tell you it was.”

Both consolidation and, to a lesser degree, retrenchment, have been touted by PASSHE as measures that will increase student opportunities, but students and faculty at various state schools have expressed concern about the negative effects that this my have on students.

“It (consolidation) is really about expanding student opportunities,” he said. “It is a practical and realistic approach to the challenges that exist for lower-enrolled schools which serve students in communities who need breadth of academic programming.”

Will the changes that PASSHE is currently undergoing end up benefitting students? That remains to be seen.

For more information about the changes to PASSHE, visit

www.passhe.edu/

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