State System Chancellor Dr. Daniel Greenstein visited Clarion University April 17 to introduce aspects of the System’s redesign and take questions from the university community.
"We have a lot to build on," Greenstein said.
Greenstein understands the situation with the State System is challenging. He said 27 percent of System funding comes from the state and the remaining 73 percent comes from student tuition – which is more than the national average.
Enrollment also is expected to decline by 2 percent across the system over the next year, he said.
"It's going to take years," Greenstein said.
But his positivity was resolute. "We can do this."
He then introduced the concept of a sharing system among all 14 schools within the System. Imagine a world in which students were placed at the center of what we do, he said.
In a sharing system, students don't ever have to worry about not graduating because they couldn't get a section of a class. He said he recently spoke to a student whose graduation was delayed because she couldn't get scheduled for an anthropology course.
In a sharing system, students have access to the full breadth of offerings within the state system, study abroad opportunities and other services such as Career Services.
In the question and answer time, Tammy Varsek, associate vice president for finance, asked how a shared system will work if each State System school sets its own tuition rates – a decision recently announced by the State System.
The chancellor acknowledged there is a wide range of incomes among families in the System citing the average income of a family in the West Chester area to be about $97,000 and in the Lock Haven area to be about $47,000. He said it will require schools working together and being accountable to each other for it to work.
It will require budgetary alignment, he said.
It will also take restructuring of instructional delivery, student support and governance, Greenstein said.
Ultimately, redundancy can be expensive, Greenstein said.
"It's a watershed moment," he said of the redesign.
Dr. Rick Sabousky questioned if the new sharing system would mean an opportunity to work with private institutions as well.
Greenstein explained that it would be an unbiased system and those opportunities would be good for our students.
Erin Lewis, assistant director of Career Services, asked a question from the perspective of a parent whose son is taking Pitt-sponsored college level classes in high school.
She had heard that the reason Clarion University wasn't taking advantage of a similar opportunity was because it violated some bargaining guidelines. She wondered if there was a way to overcome this challenge because "that's a great recruitment tool."
Greenstein agreed saying there are many entities that must work together to make an arrangement like that happen. He added that we should always question what the ultimate costs are to us by refusing to do something because they often outweigh the costs of making them happen.
Business professor Tony Johns spoke up and said the college credit in high school is one area where we need to catch up. Johns said pretty soon students will have most of general education credits completed before they attend freshman year, meaning the university won't have students enrolled in those courses on campus.
"We better get on the bandwagon for college in high school and like it," Johns said.
A female sociology student questioned what a sharing system means for smaller programs like her major.
Greenstein said it means there would be more opportunities for students if they had access to more classes and pathways with their particular major.
CU President Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson said other schools utilize teachers from smaller programs across disciplines to teach classes that are relevant to the professor's field of expertise and some aspect of a different major. In other words, a sharing system doesn't mean that smaller programs are going away.
In order to make this redesign happen, Greenstein said, the State System needs people, ideas and time. He said he knows the System has talented people and ideas.
"Now is the time," he said.
Greenstein said a colleague of his told him when he accepted this job that "you can't go into these roles and lead from fear."
"We are saving lives," Greenstein said. "We're launching lives."