The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education?s Board of Governors has designed a new five-year strategic plan that aims to measure the performance of the 14 state- owned universities in five target areas related to student achievement and cost efficiency measures in an effort to improve higher education in the commonwealth.The five core areas addressed in the plan are student achievement and success, university and system excellence, commonwealth service, resource development and stewardship and public leadership. “These core areas are what public education is all about,” Board Chairman Charles A. Gomulka said in a press release. “With this plan, we will continue to elevate the quality of the educational experiences our students receive while also ensuring that we are serving the needs of the commonwealth.”
Within each core area, strategies for improvement are underlined and performance targets have been established.
The state system will evaluate improvement by measuring university performance in factors such as student retention and graduation rates, efficiency of operations, student and faculty diversity, faculty productivity and the instructional cost per student.
State system spokesman Tom Gluck said the major difference between the strategic fiveyear plan and past initiatives is that this plan outlines specific goals that can be evaluated. “The plan provides clarity about how we want these measures to improve over the next five years,” Gluck said.
One feature of the plan is to increase funding to universities that show marked improvement within the five outlined areas. According to Gluck, this has already been a state system practice in the past, with approximately $20 million in funding going to schools based on performance.
West Chester has received performance-based funding in the past, and University President Dr. Madeleine Adler anticipates more improvements in West Chester?s future.
“Our past performance has been favorable, and with the alignment of our own Plan for excellence with the State System plan, we expect to rise to the challenge of meeting goals that prepare students for individual and professional success, and to contribute to economic, social and cultural development, not only locally, but throughout the state and country,” Adler said.
The plan also addresses issues of affordability and the rising costs of higher education that are falling more frequently to students and faculty with measures such as tuition increases and last year?s salary freeze for state system employees. Due to an eight percent decrease in state funding over the past several years, the state system is looking to continue to improve already existing cost efficiency measures.
According to Gluck, affordability is a crucial issuefor any public institution. By controlling current resources, maximizing efficiency through technology and looking for alternative sources of funding, the plan looks to cut costs without sacrificing quality.
State system leaders say this plan is the first step toward making improvements in the Pennsylvania?s public institutions of higher education. The state reports that over 104,000 students attend the 14 state-owned universities, making the state system the largest higher education provider in the commonwealth.