CLEAR Coalition Opposes Push to Privatize PASSHE

Mar 11, 2014, 17:37 ET from CLEAR Coalition

HARRISBURG, Pa., March 11, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Legislation to allow some PA State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) institutions to privatize could cost thousands of Pennsylvania families access to a high quality, affordable college education, leaders of the CLEAR Coalition said today.

The legislation would permit PASSHE universities with more than 7,000 students to leave the state system under certain prescribed conditions.  The universities would then be considered "state-related" which would result in skyrocketing tuition costs.

"So many middle class and working families are struggling to make ends meet and pay college tuition bills. This legislation would make it that much more difficult for these hard-working Pennsylvania families," said Dave Fillman, Executive Director of  the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 13 and Chair of the CLEAR Coalition.

"Our kids deserve better. Our families deserve better. Lawmakers need to focus instead on funding our colleges at the proper levels, not making it more expensive to attend," said Rick Bloomingdale, President of the Pennsylvania AFL-CIO.

Pennsylvania students pay $6,622 per year in tuition to attend a PASSHE school. If, for instance, West Chester University is allowed to privatize and operate like a state-related school, tuition for Pennsylvania residents could exceed $17,000.

If restructured like a private university, tuition for residents could quickly jump to more than $23,000 per year.

Steve Hicks, President of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), noted that 90 percent of PASSHE students are Pennsylvania residents due to affordable resident tuition and the historical mission of universities under Act 188. If institutions are allowed to privatize, they would need to recruit a higher portion of out-of-state residents.

The legislation also threatens the financial health of all 14 PASSHE member schools because decreasing the size of the purchasing group will mean increased costs. PASSHE funding has been reduced by $90 million dollars and the state is currently funding PASSHE at 1997-98 levels.

"The answer is to fund our colleges and universities. It just makes no sense to dismantle a wonderful system that fulfills such a critical mission," said Steve Hicks.

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