New leader of Pa.’s public universities says they need change, fast: ‘It’s not a pretty picture’


The chancellor of Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education is calling for “fundamental transformation and redesign” of the system’s 14 public universities without delay.

In delivering his first State of the System address after being sworn in on Wednesday to lead the system of nearly 100,000 students, Chancellor Daniel Greenstein said the system should be organized around students’ needs and not institutions.

After taking a comprehensive look at the system and the challenges it faces, he said, “It’s not a pretty picture.”

Enrollment is down. Public investment in the system sits at the same level it was in 12 years ago. What is supposed to be the state’s most affordable four-year degree has gotten out of reach for most low- and middle-income families. And competition amongst higher education institutions in this state is intense.

So what does he intend to do about it?

Plenty – and fast.

His vision includes keeping all 14 universities open but having them be less about competing and more about collaborating. It’s one where “every student on every campus has access to the full breadth of academic programming at every other campus in the system,” he said.

The chancellor spoke at the system’s headquarters in Harrisburg in front of an audience of 120 higher education and business leaders and students as well as Gov. Tom Wolf and the founding chancellor of the system James McCormick. He outlined his framework for the direction he’d like to see the system move.

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