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Trouble in Pennsylvania

March 27, 2017

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education was developed from colleges founded as “normal schools” in 1857. They became “teachers colleges” and were formally made constituent parts of a  statewide system in 1982. reports that system wide these colleges have experienced a 12% drop in enrollments since 2010 and a shortfall in funding of $78 million next year.

Full-time in-state tuition at these institutions is a uniform $7,238 or $28,952 over four years.

That tuition compares favorably with last year’s tuition at private colleges and universities in Pennsylvania:


Tuition                       Room &  Board    Four Years

Bucknell $46,902 $62,368 $249,472
Haverford $46,790 $61,784 $247,136
Franklin & Marshal $48,414 $60,638 $242,552
Dickinson College $47,692 $59,664 $238,656
Swarthmore College $44,368 $57,870 $231,480
Gettysburg $47,480 $58,820 $235,280
Lehigh-undergraduate $44,520 $56,770 $227,080
Allegheny $40,260 $52,449 $209,796
Swarthmore College $44,368 $57,870 $231,480
Elizabethtown $39,920 $49,740 $198,960
Juniata $37,870 $49,340 $197,360
Moravian $35,991 $42,239 $168,956
Lycoming $34,016 $44,392 $177,568
St. Vincent $29,540 $40,517 $162,068
Geneva College $25,220 $34,680 $138,720
La Roche College $24,749 $36,573 $146,292
York College $17,630 $27,500 $110,000
Grove City $16,154 $24,956 $99,824

To date, according to the Commonwealth Foundation, Pennsylvania, is experiencing a shortfall in tax revenue of $450 million and, reports, $3 billion by summer 2017. That estimate could be “off” by $1 billion.

What is the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to do? If they were run like business enterprises, these colleges would examine how to lower costs.  Here are the ways to do that:

1) Move most of the first two years of college courses online and offer them to all qualified high school students in Pennsylvania;

2) After five years, convert most of these colleges into Senior Colleges and admit only Junior/Senior level students for residence;

3) Merge some universities in the same region. A good many are located north of Philadelphia in the Allentown/Bethlehem area of Pennsylvania that is a favorite location, due to lower housing costs, for Pennsylvanians employed in New York City.

4) Close the weakest colleges located in rural areas.

5) When regulations change that permit Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs)  to be offered for academic credit, offer them at per course tuition of $200 each or $4,000 for two years of college work.

The important thing to notice about this situation is this:  the median family income in Pennsylvania for 2015 was $55,702. Discretionary income for a family earning $55,702 is under $3,000.  Each of your children will require not less than $29,000 in savings to pay for four years of college at any of these state universities.

Those declining enrollments are going to continue simply because tuition is already priced above levels that most Pennsylvanians can afford. That is why I titled my new book The Coming Death and Future Resurrection of American Higher Education.

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