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https://www.legis.state.pa.us/cfdocs/Legis/CSM/showMemoPublic.cfm?chamber=H&SPick=20170&cosponId=21690
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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session

MEMORANDUM

Posted: January 3, 2017 11:23 AM
From: Representative Duane D. Milne
To: All House members
Subject: CUTRR: College and University Tuition Reduction and Realignment Act
 
OVERVIEW

Upon the legislature’s return to regular business at the end of January, I will introduce CUTRR. I have branded this acronym to stand for what will be cited formally as the College and University Tuition Reduction and Realignment Act. The first phase of this process will be formation of a special commission which will be charged with developing courses of action for legislative remedies as to how to allocate higher education dollars among a more limited number of universities, colleges and campuses (“institutions” henceforth) than currently is the practice in Pennsylvania.

The vantage point I have gained via both my legislative and now 25-year higher education career leads me to the informed conclusion that the state could leverage hundreds of millions of dollars annually by a strategic reformulation as to where and how higher education budget dollars in the state are distributed. The envisioned end result is one of achieving a more concentrated distribution as to where (which institutions) appropriations are invested, with the subsequent effect being one of maximizing the impact of state appropriations per institution and minimizing tuition levels per student at these institutions.

POLICY CONTEXT and ORGANIZATIONAL ENVIRONMENT

My motivation for this legislation is to connect efforts to confront the twin challenges of coming up with budgetary savings for Pennsylvania as well as contributing to students and their families being better positioned to navigate the expense of higher education. The latter refers in particular to reducing the rate of tuition increases and, correspondingly, the student debt load that can result.

My legislative perspective on this matter is informed by my now 25-year career in the higher education sector, both as a tenured professor at a PASHEE institution as well as an administrator at same. Given my academic career, I am often asked why Pennsylvania’s tuition levels are relatively high, and what can be turned to so as to reduce tuition costs in the state. An aspect of the answer, applicable to the (broadly-defined) public university sector anyhow, is attributable to the reality that the Commonwealth expends limited dollars over a seemingly limitless number of separate institutions. This spread runs the scale from all the PASHEE institutions to the state-related universities and their branch campuses to the community college system and even to some purely private schools. The structure of Pennsylvania’s system of higher education is fraught with fragmentation from an organizational systems and management standpoint, and the funding that follows too diluted per institution to exert a more meaningful impact on tuition control as well as return on investment of state appropriations from the budget.

This structural fragmentation and funding dispersion is a function in no minor manner because of duplication of curricula, programs and course offerings. This is only then exacerbated by instances of more than one public institution competing in the same region or market for a limited, and declining in some quadrants, base of students – and a base that will be increasingly too small to fill sufficient seats at so many institutions. A number of other reasons account for and reinforce this structural fragmentation and funding dispersion phenomenon, and I will be pleased to address such as this conversation advances.

BOTTOM LINE

A more focused distribution as to where and how appropriations are invested and a strategic rethinking of the metrics for making that decision would lead to a more value-added impact per institution and therefore per student, and thus per Pennsylvania taxpayer funding the budget writ large.

To facilitate decision making in this regard, my legislation as noted proposes to establish a special commission charged with developing recommendations for efficient and fair legislative remedies so as to allocate limited higher education dollars among a fewer institutions in the state. As a business model, the bottom line of CUTRR is that all savings leveraged from structural realignment and subsequently available for (re)appropriation across a streamlined public university sector will be stipulated to have as their express purpose certain uses that will help reduce tuition levels. In totality, all of this will prove in the best interests of the future of Pennsylvania.