New PASSHE chancellor Dan Greenstein speaks at LHU

JOHN RISHEL/For The Express Greenstein, the new PASSHE chancellor, holds a sweatshirt with the LHU insignia.

LOCK HAVEN — “Across the board; we have declining enrollment, (which means) less tuition coming in. To put it bluntly, we have been struggling to deliver quality education to our system,” said Dan Greenstein, the new Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chancellor, as he was greeted to the Sloan Auditorium stage Tuesday night by LHU President Robert Pignatello.

“We have been using molds in place since the 1950’s. The efficiency of the educational systems we have in place have waned, meanwhile the demands, expectations and funding models of higher education have changed dramatically.” Greenstein said.

Dan Greenstein, a former director at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation — a nonprofit that has heavily influenced public education — has been chosen as the new chancellor of Pennsylvania’s 14 state universities as they look to redesign themselves amid falling enrollment.

The state system has suffered enrollment losses since 2010. The 14 schools in the PASSHE region, which includes Lock Haven University, heavily depend on tuition dollars.

Dr. Daniel Greenstein became the fifth PASSHE chancellor in early September, and he is quick to work.

JOHN RISHEL/For The Express LHU President Robert Pignatello greets Dan Greenstein to the stage inside the Sloan Auditorium.

In the chancellor role, he serves as chief executive officer of the state system, which operates Pennsylvania’s 14 public universities, serving more than 100,000 total students. The chancellor works with the Board of Governors to recommend and develop overall policies for the system.

Collectively, the 14 universities that comprise the State System offer more than 2,300 degree and certificate programs in more than 530 academic areas.

“We are better positioned than anywhere else to take on these challenges and to succeed… to win. We, as a system and a community, have the grit, the passion, and the sense of urgency to identify and tackle these challenges head on. The students depend on it. This is a challenge we have set for ourselves, not just redefining who we are, but redefining what 21st century higher education looks like,” Greenstein said in front of an assembled crowd of nearly a hundred people, including several county commissioners and other high ranking officials of the area.

Greenstein previously led the Postsecondary Success strategy at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, where he worked with other higher education leaders across the country on initiatives designed to raise educational-attainment levels and to promote economic mobility, especially among low-income and minority students. He developed and implemented a national strategy for increasing the number of degrees awarded and for reducing the attainment gaps among majority and non-majority students at U.S. colleges and universities.

“We have to look at various post-secondary success strategies and interesting initiatives, especially with low income and minority students. We have to ask ourselves the question, ‘how do we sustain and assure all of our students can afford this education?’. We are not alone. Other institutions of higher education are facing the same challenges. We have the drive, the passion, and the resilience. We are on a comprehensive, innovative, and constant hunt for research and the knowledge, the information, and the ability to inspire our students, and to launch them towards their hopes and dreams… and I feel that coming from the community,” he said.

“The problems are compounded by cut-throat competition… with public and private schools all with more seats than they have high school graduates to fill them. It is quickly becoming a race to the top and to the bottom,” Greenstein explained. “We are racing towards the top in price, while simultaneously racing towards the bottom in quality.”

“Populations of potential students are unaddressed, employer and market needs are unaddressed. I have been engaging people day to day, students, staff and faculty…to develop goals and to create a strategy. Until we can articulate our vision for our system, until we know what we want to be… it is impossible to have success,” he said.

Greenstein has received hundreds of passionate and heartfelt calls, emails and messages from the area. He sees a community that believes in him, and a community that wants success for the well-being of the students as the system is reinvigorated.

“All 14 universities in the PASSHE ultimately have to be self sustaining. The biggest challenge is a culture of distrust. We have comments flying back and forth, but people just need to truly listen. Ditches have been dug for decades, there has been a lot of uncivil discourse. We must address it, stand up, suspend our disbelief, and join arms as one body and say ‘enough.’ Only then can we transform our culture with respect and create an environment for the courageous conversations that we must have,” Greenstein urged.

Greenstein insists he will listen actively, to make decisions backed with information and analysis, to be transparent, and to work tirelessly for all students, regardless of their zip code, age, or social status.

“Because it is just the right thing to do. I will make mistakes, but I will be held accountable to those mistakes,” Greenstein said, brimming with energy.

“It is more complicated than just ‘how do we save money?’. We have to figure out who we are, and what kind of fundamental model are going to go with. Sometimes people just hang on to institutional practices to the point of falling off… it is stupidity. We are not going to do that. We are going through the consultative process, creating a list of archetypes of what we can do and what they mean to us. Which plan is most likely going to succeed in maintaining opportunities for all Pennsylvania students, that they can afford without piling up debt? These are not the sons and daughters of the rich, but they are some of the greatest and most motivated learners that the world has to offer,” he said.

“Who are our students? What can they afford? What can we do to help them succeed? How do we define success? We have to be explicit, we cannot talk past each other. We need to open up that inclusive conversation of what we expect as universities, and what people expect of our universities, understanding the support they need and making sure that support exists. The current trend is rich versus poor. We are dealing with K-12 deficiencies and poverty deprivations we cannot control,” he said.

“We need to look at the workplace, we need to do a better job targeting adults that did not traditionally go to college right out of high school, and we need to allow them to be successful in finding funding, grants, and to have easy access to the things that would lead them to enroll. We need to look at all the avenues that lead people to enroll. We are trying to help the Bald Eagles soar higher,” Greenstein said.

Greenstein holds both bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and a D.Phil. from the University of Oxford. Dan has a great mind, along with the point of view and the temperament necessary to achieve great things, not only for himself and the PASSHE, but for all the students across Pennsylvania.