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PASSHE Reform Bills Considered

A package of bills that supporters say would make the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education more competitive is making its way through the Senate Education Committee. The seven bills came up for debate in committee this week.

State Senator Andy Dinniman (D-Chester County) supports the legislation and sponsors one of the bills. He said the package tries to positively change the schools' fundraising abilities, allows for research and development of intellectual properties, products, and services by faculty and their ability to form their own business or enter into a business arrangement with a private company, and allows universities to enter into contracts and purchase agreements without prior approval from the state Department of General Services.

The bills also allow all 14 universities to offer doctoral degree programs. Right now, only Indiana University of Pennsylvania offers a doctoral program.

"All we're doing is changing those regulations, those mandates, that don't make sense in 2011 with the universities being full research-oriented, teacher-oriented, service-oriented institutions," said Dinniman.

The regulations being changed were created in the 1970s, when the system offered very different opportunities. Dinniman says that the rules have handcuffed the universities, faculty, and students on many different fronts.

Supporters believe the schools will be able to bring in more non-tuition money with the regulations lifted and operate much more efficiently.

Currently, there are 120,000 students in the State System of Higher Education and more than 6,000 faculty members.