Pa. State System Moves Forward With Modified Merger Plan

October 15, 2020

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is moving toward combining six of its universities into two different accredited entities, updating plans that have evolved over recent months as the public university system seeks to adapt to financial and enrollment pressures.

The system’s Board of Governors gave affirmation Wednesday to exploring plans to unite two sets of universities, each of which would seek to provide education to traditional in-person undergraduates while also adding more nontraditional offerings. The first set of institutions, California, Clarion and Edinboro Universities, would when merged seek to add an “affordable, career-relevant online program” based in Pennsylvania. The second set, Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield Universities, would create certificate or stackable credential programs.

Each combined set of institutions would become a single accredited organization with its own single leadership, faculty members, enrollment management strategy and budget.

“The data and the analysis are showing clearly that the path forward on integrations will mean greater student opportunity in regions critical to Pennsylvania’s economy,” said the system’s chancellor, Dan Greenstein, in a statement. “As we strive to hold our place as the affordable public higher education option, we must continue to think and act boldly so that any Pennsylvanian, regardless of zip code, can continue their education at a State System university.”

System mergers are possible under legislation Pennsylvania lawmakers passed earlier this year. The system board will next review an implementation plan, but not before April 2021. The earliest merged universities could begin accepting students is August 2022.

System leaders project the merged institutions can grow enrollment and take advantage of cost efficiencies.

Leaders had earlier talked about merging the six universities in question into three pairs of two. But last month, alternative plans emerged to have Clarion, California and Edinboro Universities affiliating.

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