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House of Representatives
Session of 2019 - 2020 Regular Session


Posted: December 19, 2019 01:15 PM
From: Representative Curtis G. Sonney and Rep. Jesse Topper, Rep. Meghan Schroeder
To: All House members
Subject: PASSHE Reform _ Bill Package
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth. Since its formation in 1982, PASSHE has continued to provide accessible, affordable, and relevant undergraduate, graduate, and career-development programs to the public. However, despite significant changes to the landscape of higher education, Act 188 of 1982, PASSHE’s enabling legislation, has not been significantly updated since its initial enactment.

As you know, PASSHE is currently facing considerable challenges – both externally and internally - that threaten the sustainability of its operations. In the fall of 2016, PASSHE embarked on a System Redesign, separated into three phases, in order to address these challenges. In Phase 1, PASSHE established three strategic priorities: (1) ensuring student success; (2) leveraging university strengths; and (3) transforming the governance/leadership structure. System Redesign is currently in Phase 2, which began in the fall of 2018 with the arrival of the new chancellor. Phase 2 involves developing detailed implementation plans to achieve the strategic priorities. As part of Phase 2, legislative action is needed to accomplish many of these goals.

Over this past year, PASSHE’s Board of Governors has taken action to ensure that they have the tools necessary to achieve System Redesign’s full potential. Some examples include:
  • Freezing in-state tuition for the first time in over 20 years because affordability is a key component of the System’s mission and critical to student success;
  • Implementing a systemwide University Financial Sustainability Policy to give greater visibility into university fiscal health, allowing leaders from across the System to better collaborate; and
  • Establishing a shared services consortium that will build a “Sharing System” to harness the power of its massive scale to drive down costs, optimize core business functions, and invest more in student success.
However, the full potential of the System Redesign cannot be achieved without legislative action. Both statutory and regulatory constraints are imposing additional costs and creating inefficiencies that are constraining PASSHE’s ability to respond to rapidly changing market conditions. By updating and modernizing Act 188, we will be giving PASSHE the tools they need to ensure that they remain competitive in today’s everchanging higher education landscape. This three-bill package will update the law to permit PASSHE to better manage and optimize the System, as well as be flexible and responsive to the changing landscape of higher education.

These reforms will help the System deliver on its mission of providing students with high-quality, affordable public higher education that prepares them to meet the needs of the Commonwealth. Please join us in cosponsoring this important legislation.


Document #1

Introduced as HB2171

Description: HB 2171 (Sonney):
HB 2171 will reform the governance and accountability of PASSHE’s Board of Governors and the Councils of Trustees.  These reforms include:
  • Authorizing the Board to create, expand, consolidate, transfer, dissolve, or close an institution or college, empowering the Board to better align the system with Commonwealth workforce needs and enrollment;
  • Providing minimum qualifications for Board members and the Councils of Trustees and permitting their removal for cause;
  • Clarifying that the Board may delegate duties to the chancellor;
  • Clarifying the powers and duties of the Councils of Trustees and presidents; and
  • Vesting the Board with the power to enforce Board policies and require institutions to share services and participate in collaborations, where appropriate.

Document #2

Introduced as HB2172

Description: HB 2172 (Topper):
HB 2172 will make needed financial and legal reforms to PASSHE.  These reforms include:
  • Affirming the System’s sovereign immunity status and status as a government instrumentality;
  • Limiting the applicability of municipal authority to impose regulation on real property owned and titled by the System;
  • Distinguishing between the applicable statutory requirements for state-appropriated and non state-appropriated funds;
  • Prohibiting the System from indemnifying third parties;
  • Reforming the bidding process for construction contracts as it applies to the System and its institutions;
  • Creating a framework around which real property may be disposed; and
  • Allowing police/university investigative record sharing.

Document #3

Introduced as HB2173

Description: HB 2173 (Schroeder):
HB 2173 will make needed reforms to streamline reporting and clarify and update statutory language.  These reforms include:
  • Clarifying language regarding cooperative use or purchasing agreements;
  • Removing outdated terminology;
  • Easing redundant reporting requirements; and
  • Exempting student records and emails from the Right to Know Law.