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Pa. State System of Higher Education merger continues, but courses, athletics still being settled

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Commonwealth Media Services
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On today’s episode of The Confluence: Bill Schackner with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette explains what questions are still unanswered about the merging of six state higher education institutions; WESA reporter Kate Giammarise tells us how the county Health Department struggles to collect unpaid fines from negligent landlords and other property owners; and we hear how making agriculture less labor-intensive could help bring in a new generation of farmers. 

PASSHE merger: Where it stands, what’s next
(0:00 - 10:20)

In July, Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), approved the merger of six state owned universities into two: one in Western Pennsylvania and one in the Northeast region of the state.

The three universities in the western part of the state are California, Clarion and Edinboro universities, which will be called PennWest. Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities are to be merged in the Northeast.

“We’re moving away from the debate about whether or not the schools should be merged, because that’s happened, to sort of the planning of what’s gonna come next,” says Bill Schackner, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reporter.

Schackner says course programs that are being offered across campuses are being phased in over the next three years, which may influence the decision of incoming college first-year students to attend.

“I think one of the challenges for the state system in this process is … providing information to [first-year students] that is not only reassuring, but also deadly accurate about what they can expect to see on their campuses and what’s gonna change with the programs they’re hoping to study,” says Schackner.

Professors are also concerned, says Schackner, because they don’t yet know what the final course offerings will be. Logistical information like where departments will be headquartered is also not yet decided.

“There’s been ongoing concern among them and students about if this will require them to take more courses remotely,” says Schackner.

There are also questions remaining about athletics and accreditation, which have yet to be resolved. Schackner says PASSHE chancellor Daniel Greenstein is confident the six campuses will continue to have a full slate of athletic programs.

Unhealthy housing persists, despite fines against landlords
(10:36 - 17:17)

Allegheny County’s Health Department has performed an average of 3,000 inspections every year to investigate alleged housing code violations: everything from no heat, to no water, to sewage problems.

But when it comes to ongoing issues that result in fines, less than a fifth of that money gets collected.

90.5 WESA’s Kate Giammarise has been reporting on this issue with Rich Lord of PublicSource as part of their Tenant Cities series.

Making farming less labor-intensive could help attract a younger, much-needed workforce
(17:33 - 22:30)

Pennsylvania farmers are getting older, and state officials say there aren’t enough people to take over what is often grueling work that doesn’t make much money. But 90.5 WESA’s An-Li Herring reports embracing technology could be key to raising a new generation of agricultural workers.

This report is part of a series about the challenge of cultivating a new generation of farmers in Pennsylvania.

The Confluence, where the news comes together, is 90.5 WESA’s daily news program. Tune in Monday to Thursday at 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m. to hear newsmakers and innovators take an in-depth look at stories important to the Pittsburgh region. Find more episodes of The Confluence here or wherever you get your podcasts.

Kevin Gavin is the host of WESA's news interview program "The Confluence." He is a native Pittsburgher and served as news director for 90.5 WDUQ for 34 years. Since the sale of the radio station by Duquesne University to Pittsburgh EPM, Inc. (now Pittsburgh Community Broadcasting Corp.), he served as Executive Producer of Special News Projects prior to being named as host of "The Confluence" five years ago. kgavin@wesa.fm
Marylee is the editor/producer of The Confluence, the daily public affairs show on WESA. She got her start in journalism at The Daily Reveille and KLSU while attending Louisiana State University. She took her passion for audio journalism to UC Berkeley's graduate program and worked in public radio at WPR in Madison, WI, and WOSU in Columbus, Ohio.
Laura Tsutsui is a producer for The Confluence, WESA's morning news show. Previously, she reported on the San Joaquin Valley with the NPR affiliate station in her hometown of Fresno, California. She can be reached at ltsutsui@wesa.fm.
Rebecca Reese is a production assistant for The Confluence.
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