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Higher Education Commission Issues 19 Proposals

A state-appointed commission on higher education has made its recommendations as to how Pennsylvania could improve the quality of colleges, universities, and trade schools while reducing student costs.

The Advisory Commission on Post-Secondary Education was created by Governor Tom Corbett in February, and submitted its final recommendations Wednesday, one day before the deadline. The panel was made up of 31 commissioners, including university presidents, education experts and business leaders.

Commission chair Rob Wonderling said the panel made nineteen proposals to the legislature and the governor's office. The former state senator said one recommendation would require colleges and universities in Pennsylvania to meet performance requirements in order to secure state funding.

"That's what the academic leadership of Penn State, Pitt, community colleges, private liberal arts institutions, and the State System [of Higher Education] agreed to as members of the commission," said Wonderling. He said all recommendations were adopted unanimously.

"There ought to be a predictable funding model for all these institutions that receive taxpayer dollars, but not without those institutions modifying their behavior, enhancing their performance, looking at ways to collaborate and consolidate," said Wonderling. He added that post-secondary schools must also tailor their degree offerings toward workforce needs much more effectively.

The commission also recommended that the state provide incentives for businesses to work collaboratively with colleges and trade schools.

"Incentives for the business community to provide equipment that can support technical education, to provide internship opportunities not only for students, but teachers and instructors as well in the higher education system," said Wonderling. "Incentives that, perhaps, will encourage businesses to co-locate on or near college campuses."

Wonderling, currently CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, said the commission tried to focus on making the higher education process easier for students to navigate. He said one interesting recommendation calls for the creation of an "education app store."

"That would provide open-source and market-driven information about the institutions," said Wonderling. "Their cost structures, net tuition price, along with opportunities for advanced credentialing, diagnostic tools to earn credits, real-time job forecasting, et cetera."

Wonderling said some of the recommendations would need legislative action to take effect, but most would simply require policy changes at the universities or within the Corbett administration.

The entire series of recommendations can be found at the website of the Advisory Commission on Post-Secondary Education.

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