Providing affordable pathways

Last week, on this page, three university presidents discussed how colleges and universities across the nation today face a crisis of affordability.

At public universities, more and more of these costs have shifted to the student to cover state aid reductions and mandatory expense increases.

Apart from the community colleges, our State System universities have the largest share of low income students among first-time freshman in the Commonwealth.

In addition, public institutions like Lock Haven University are a vital part of the local community, supporting the local economy, providing community service, generating skilled employees, and producing new taxpayers who are engaged and contributing members of society.

In fact, The Haven has a strong record of achievement as an engine for upward mobility.

We rank No. 4 in the State System for our ability to help our Bald Eagles soar even higher, moving students from the lower 60 percent of family income to the top 40 percent.

LHU provides affordable pathways of moving people into and up through the middle class.

Consequently, we must not put the price of higher education out of reach.

That is why we are exploring new measures to make the cost of attendance more affordable.

This means pursuing more funds for recruitment scholarships, weighing the costs and benefits of tuition discounting, and creating the capacity for completion scholarships to help those at risk due to financial hardship and keep them enrolled.

By making student success the center of what we do, we can retain more of our students and help them graduate faster to reduce their overall cost.

This semester, LHU is testing access to eTextbooks, the lowest cost alternate for student textbooks.

The pilot program involves 168 sections and can be expanded in the future if successful.

The high cost of textbooks is a significant component in the overall cost of attendance we sometimes overlook.

The power of public higher education is transformative.

But this can only be possible if we ensure that public institutions like Lock Haven are affordable, accessible, of the highest value possible, and are viewed and treated not as a private privilege, but as a public good we all invest in.

When we do, we secure a better future for all of us.

Robert M. Pignatello is the new president of Lock Haven University.

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