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Plans to merge universities in Pennsylvania continue, but all schools will keep their names – and sports teams, if the NCAA approves

The system that oversees Pennsylvania state universities is continuing plans to integrate six of its 14 schools into two entities, but has decided that those schools will keep their names – and possibly their athletic teams.

Pennsylvania State Higher Education System Seeks NCAA Approval “So We Can Keep Our Sports Teams On All Six Campuses As They Are Today,” University President Says from Bloomsburg, Bashar Hanna, at the system’s board of governors meeting on Thursday.

This means that even though the system plan to integrate Lock Haven, Mansfield and Bloomsburg universities into one entity and have Clarion, California and Edinboro in another be approved, there could still be six football teams or six field hockey teams. The team studying integration found that all sports teams bring money to universities, Hanna said.

NCAA approval could come as early as next week, he said.

In addition, the six university names would still appear on students’ diplomas, said Daniel Greenstein, chancellor of the system. Since universities are an integral part of their communities, maintaining the name and brand has become a guiding factor, he said.

“LEARN MORE: A major change could be coming for Pennsylvania state universities

This is among the new developments in integration planning that were outlined at the Governing Council meeting on Thursday.

The two groups of schools, however, would share a leadership team – although each school would have a campus leader – a budget and a curriculum. They would be part of two larger entities, yet to be named. Greenstein expects to present a detailed plan in April for a board vote, which would kick off a required comment period and lead to a final vote, possibly in July.

“LEARN MORE: Upcoming faculty cuts and academic integrations at PA universities

The system continues integrations as enrollment continues to decline – this year there are around 93,000 students, a 2% drop from last year and from about 120,000 years ago. The system financial struggles were made worse by the pandemic, which is expected to cost the system and its third-party student housing providers around $ 300 million by the end of 2020-21, spokesman David Pidgeon said.

Ten universities had lower minimum reserves in 2019-20 than they had five years earlier, and of the 14 universities, half do not have 180 days of reserves on hand, said Kate Shirley Akers, vice-chancellor Assistant for advanced data analysis during the meeting. . Three are less than 90 days old.

“Time is not our friend,” Greenstein said. “And the stiffness of these curves is alarming.”

Also at the meeting, the board agreed to borrow $ 825 million to pay 75% of its financial obligations over the next 30 years to the State Employees Retirement System (SERS) under a one-time advance payment to be made by April 30. will cause an estimated $ 280 million in cash flow into the system over the next three decades, Greenstein said. The system will use some of the money to help with the ongoing system overhaul, he said.

But that would be a significant increase in the system’s debt, currently at around $ 1.1 billion.

State representative Brad Roae, who is on the board, questioned whether the money would not be better spent to pay off the current debt.

“The biggest challenge is redesigning the system,” replied Board Chair Cynthia Shapira. “If we don’t, we won’t be able to do anything else. “

The board agreed to wording that prohibits the system from using the money for operational expenses.

It also approved a retirement incentive program for employees in the form of a sick leave bonus. About 1,400 employees were eligible for the plan in the fall semester, Pidgeon said. Incentive programs aim to downsize and help the system avoid or limit layoffs. Last year, 403 employees, more than half of whom are professors, received a similar retirement incentive, Pidgeon said.

“It’s really imperative that we get to the right size,” Greenstein said. “We just can’t continue to operate as we do under the circumstances. “

Also at the meeting, Cheyney University President Aaron A. Walton was granted a three-year extension of his contract until 2024. And Hanna was named Interim President of Lock Haven, in addition to continue to lead Bloomsburg.

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