PASSHE Chancellor discusses changes to state system

LAURA JAMESON/THE EXPRESS PASSHE Chancellor Daniel Greenstein speaks to faculty, staff and students at Lock Haven University’s Sloan Fine Arts Theatre on Wednesday afternoon.

LOCK HAVEN — Social mobility, economic development and social justice; Those form the driving force behind Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Chancellor Daniel Greenstein’s goal to redesign the system among its 14 universities.

The focus will be less about the universities operating individually and more about how they can work together to better serve the students within PASSHE’s system, Public Relations Director Dave Pidgeon said.

“We’re looking at the entire system almost like we’re popping the hood, taking a look at the engine and saying ‘what kind of engine do we need for 2019 and into the decades that are ahead of us,” Pidgeon said.

Providing students in the state of Pennsylvania a quality and affordable higher form of education is important to Greenstein.

“For me, public higher education is certainly one of the most reliable pathways into and beyond the middle class,” Greenstein said.

Greenstein said that, although when he was growing up someone with a high school diploma could find a good paying job, that isn’t the case in today’s society.

“Those jobs are gone,” he said. “By 2025-2026 the estimate is that in the state of Pennsylvania at least 54 percent of the adult population will require some form of post secondary education. And virtually all new jobs that are being created… require some form of post secondary education.”

State universities, as a form of public education, are the affordable route to create social mobility for those pursuing a secondary degree, he said.

“Social mobility, if you think about it today, you’re five times more likely as a rich person to have a degree by age 24 than if you are a poor person. And those numbers are just as bad if you do it by race,” he said.

PASSHE has already taken steps to help ensure a more affordable education by enacting a tuition freeze for the 2019-2020 school year.

“I’m proud of that. It was the right thing to do for our students,” Greenstein said.

Not only does higher education create a path to lead a student into the middle class or higher, it also is an inequitably distributed good, Greenstein continued.

Economic development is also another reason why public higher education and the revitalization of the state system is important to Greenstein.

“54 percent of the population is going to require a post secondary education just to keep the lights on,” he said.

Greenstein went on to say that economic development ties into social mobility because those who traditionally received a higher education will no longer be able to keep the job market together.

“Bluntly there’s not enough affluent white people left to educate into those jobs, those roles,” he said. “So if you care about workforce development you also have to care about social mobility and equity.”

“In order to keep the lights on in the economy we have to do better with students, rural, urban, black, brown, older who have historically not been well served by higher public education,” he continued.

Another push for Greenstein social justice and the importance of introducing students to different background than their own.

“Universities are increasingly the only, or one of the few places, with people from very different backgrounds can engage with others not like themselves and learn tolerance from that engagement. Tolerance is a commodity that is in very short supply in our larger society,” he said.

PASSHE has taken some steps to learn how to best revitalize its system but creating various system teams to analyze different parts of the system from finance to academics, Greenstein said.

“We’ve put together a bunch of system redesign teams that are helping drive this process,” he said.

Part of the continued research into how to better redesign the system to benefit the students is the use of surveys, Greenstein said.

Surveys for students, faculty and staff help give a baseline for PASSHE to learn what needs to be changed and what may not be, he said.

PASSHE’s board of directors will also be reviewing and considering the approval of a new governance and accountability policy.

“We spent a lot of time putting in place, and really revamping our governance and accountability structure,” Greenstein said.

He continued, saying he’d spoken with many people who could name an incident that had a negative impact on their respective university. Something that should never have happened in the first place.

“Because our governance and accountability structures didn’t really exist. No one was really accountable for anything,” he said. “We have spent a year going over this policy and that will now not happen. That doesn’t mean that bad decisions will not be made, that just means that those mistakes cannot be made without accountability.”

The board is going to vote on this issue this month which will be the final piece the accountability puzzle, Greenstein said.

Changes are still coming and will continue to do so in the coming months but President Robert Pignatello is confident that Lock Haven University will be able to adjust accordingly.

“We have tremendous assets here. I am very confident we’ll be able to overcome all of our challenges,” he said.