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House of Representatives
Session of 2017 - 2018 Regular Session


Posted: January 19, 2017 02:47 PM
From: Representative Duane D. Milne
To: All House members
Subject: Select Committee on Higher Education Formation
In the near future, I will introduce legislation to form a legislative Select Committee on Higher Education.

The guiding charge of this committee will be to examine in a comprehensive and deliberative fashion the entirety of the public higher education sector in Pennsylvania, and to take up legislation deemed to pertinent to this operational and performance review.

The scope of this committee may include, but is not limited to, the following foci:
  • Evaluate the standards and decision matrix as to which colleges, universities and post-secondary schools (“institutions” henceforth) receive state appropriations and at what respective levels;
  • Gauge how state regulations impact institutions, with an intent to identify instances in which regulatory relief should be granted as well as circumstances in which clearer compliance by institutions is called for;
  • Determine which personnel on institutions’ payrolls properly should be categorized as state employees, for purposes of assigning legal accountability and requirements in some cases, as well as examining standards of eligibility for state pensions, health care coverage, and additional state-derived benefits for any given type of employee or sets of employees;
  • Assess the reasonableness of the balance of the array of curriculum offerings, programs and courses of study across public institutions; and
  • Develop courses of action that will help limit tuition increases and reduce student debt.

The catalyst of calling for the convening of this committee is to launch what is a needed vehicle at this moment in time to consider and address higher education issues in a venue separate and distinct from
prek-12 education.

Education emphasis in the legislature tends, as the natural course of events, to concern the primary and secondary levels and related funding and performance issues thereof. However, a comprehensive review tailored to the higher education sector in Pennsylvania is overdue, and this critical policy area would benefit from some concentrated legislative attention.

Although always relevant, the present timing is especially conducive for undertaking this initiative. The budget challenges ahead offer context as to why higher education should be examined systematically and thoughtfully as the search for savings, while still preserving service quality, presses down upon the state.

Another rationale for such a stand-alone committee is because some of the issues that potentially could be taken up by this committee are matters, in whole or in part, that otherwise would fall within the purview of a standing committee (and would be looked at with a wider scope than the intended point of this committee: a focus specifically on the higher education sector), and/or pertinent issues cross lines of multiple committees.

The suggested timeline for formation of the committee is for stand up 30 days after agreement to the legislation herein, and sunset 24 months from this start point.