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Education

State University System Advances Consolidation Plan A Step

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AP
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AP

The board of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education voted Wednesday to advance a plan to merge six of its 14 universities into two new institutions, as the system struggles with sinking enrollment and stagnant state aid.

The nearly unanimous vote from the board of governors after a two-hour meeting launches a 60-day public comment period. A final vote could be scheduled for July, with implementation in time for the 2022-23 school year.

Under the plans, Bloomsburg, Mansfield and Lock Haven universities in northern Pennsylvania would merge into one institution and California, Clarion and Edinboro in western Pennsylvania would merge to become another.

All six campuses would remain open, with integrated faculty, curriculum and enrollment strategies, as well as administration efforts to ensure each of the six campuses to retain its sports teams.

The plan envisions reducing the cost of a degree for students by 25%.

The statewide faculty union warned that the consolidation would reduce faculty numbers and academic programs, hurting local economies, driving up student-to-faculty ratios and lengthening commutes for students.

Enrollment has fallen more than 20% since 2010 to below 100,000, driven by steep declines of students from families whose annual incomes are below $110,000, according to the system.

The system has received less state aid than it did in the 2006-07 school year. The board voted to freeze tuition for the third year in a row next year.