Due to declining budgets and enrollments, the PASSHE is considering the possibility of consolidating and/or closing some of its schools. System Chancellor Frank Brogan has called for a study “to look at restructuring the system to ensure it can continue its statutory mission of providing affordable, high-quality higher education in Pennsylvania. The study will look at academic programming and how it is aligned across the system; the impact of pricing on enrollment; the management structure of universities as well as the chancellor’s office; and more generally the higher education landscape in the commonwealth and how public funded institutions are competing with each other, among other areas, he said.” Ken Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties was reportedly “somewhat distressed that the focus of the discussion about reorganization was on the university finances and not students and their ability to afford to attend a state university.” (http://www.pennlive.com/politics/index.ssf/2017/02/restructuring_study_of_pa_stat.html).
While the Northeastern United States in general, and Pennsylvania in particular, are situated in a portion of the country that has been and is projected to continue to have declining numbers of high school graduates (https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2016/12/06/high-school-graduates-drop-number-and-be-increasingly-diverse), access to affordable higher education should be a topic of concern for language and literacy educators. As the 2016 NCTE Education Policy Platform states, “Ensuring equity is vital in a period when considerable control of education is moving to state, local, or institutional levels.” (http://www.ncte.org/positions/statements/2016-policy-platform). In addition, given concerns raised about course teaching loads during the October 2016 PASSHE system strike (http://www.ncte.org/policy-analysis-initiative?reportid=552), two of the “enabling conditions” for “sound writing instruction” at the postsecondary level as articulated in the CCC Principles for the Postsecondary Teaching of Writing should be kept in mind: “[providing] students with the support necessary to achieve their goals” and ensuring the instruction is provided “by instructors with reasonable and equitable working conditions” (http://www.ncte.org/cccc/resources/positions/postsecondarywriting/summary).
I recently corresponded with several colleagues in the University System of Georgia, which has been going through a process of consolidation over several years (http://www.usg.edu/consolidation/). While few of them expressed concern over students’ access to higher education as a result of the consolidation, they described varying levels of success in merging campus cultures and especially in trying to distribute courses and faculty within consolidated departments and programs. Current faculty in English and Writing departments in the PASSHE system may want to begin to consider beginning those discussions now.