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Also supports new nursing programs, flexible tuition plans

The Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Thursday approved a new strategic plan that will enhance and expand student learning opportunities and ensure the commonwealth receives the greatest possible return on its annual investment in
the system and its 14 universities.

The new long-range plan establishes a series of measurable goals for the system as a whole, including increasing the number of degrees and certificates awarded annually by the universities; increasing the number of working adult and transfer students enrolled in the system; and boosting graduation rates among all groups of students, especially
low-income and underrepresented minority students. The goals are expected to be
met by 2020.

“Strategic plans are never ‘final’ and should always be evaluated for relevancy,” PASSHE Chancellor Frank T. Brogan said. “But, today’s action solidifies a roadmap that will help the Board of Governors, the Councils of Trustees and the university leadership move this system toward even greater responsiveness to the needs of our students and all of Pennsylvania.”

PASSHE’s new strategic plan, titled “2020: Rising to the Challenge,” includes 21 specific outcomes based on four strategic goals. The plan has been under development for nearly two years and will replace the system’s last long-range plan, which was approved nearly a decade ago.

The plan recognizes the shifting higher education landscape, both in Pennsylvania and nationwide. In its introduction, the plan notes that in order to achieve long-term success, PASSHE will need to:

  • adapt to an ever-changing student population

  • align academic programs with real workforce and personal growth needs

  • provide greater flexibility in how, when and where students learn

  • ensure that competition and cooperation within the system is strategic

  • preserve and promote accessibility and affordability

  • enhance accountability and transparency

“Importantly, this plan includes specific goals with specific benchmarks, all of which will help us assure even greater accountability,” Brogan said.

The plan calls for increasing (from 5,600 to 7,500) the number of degrees or certificates awarded annually in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) and health-related disciplines. It also calls for increasing the total number of degrees and certificates awarded annually to 31,500.

“As a system, we also need to provide more access points for non-traditional and working students—those who have jobs and families and want to pursue a degree at the same time,” Brogan said.

The plan calls for increasing the number of undergraduate students over the age of 25 to at least 11,000 and the number of community college transfer students to at least 4,000; and increasing to 53,000 the number of students enrolled in classes offered via distance education, including online. About 9,000 non-traditional students – those over the age of 25  – and 3,300 community college transfers are currently enrolled.

“This new strategic plan establishes significant new goals for PASSHE and our universities as they seek to be responsive to the needs of the commonwealth,” said Guido M. Pichini, chairman
of the Board of Governors. “It is a blueprint that can be adjusted as those needs change.”

PASSHE is the largest provider of higher education in the commonwealth, enrolling about 112,000 students. While each of the universities has its own unique set of program offerings, the plan calls for greater cooperation among the institutions in order to improve their operating efficiency and to ensure students have greater access to educational opportunities, even as available resources become tighter.

New nursing programs approved for Bloomsburg, Clarion and Edinboro

A pair of new Doctor of Nursing Practice programs to be offered by Bloomsburg, Clarion and Edinboro universities of Pennsylvania will join a third DNP program approved by the Board of
Governors last summer at West Chester University of Pennsylvania as PASSHE and its member universities work together to align programs to best serve commonwealth needs.

“This is an outstanding example of PASSHE universities working together to ensure relevance in programs, to reduce costs through collaboration and to align resources to meet the needs of the commonwealth,” said Aaron A. Walton, chair of the Board of Governors’ Academic and Student
Affairs Committee.

The trio of programs will help address the decline in the availability of physicians, especially in primary care specialties, and the need for improved quality of care and patient safety in all areas of Pennsylvania.

Bloomsburg University, working in partnership with Geisinger Health System, will offer a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree that will provide the only aligned pathway from a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist program to the DNP. The new program will help address the healthcare needs in the north central and northeastern regions of the state.

Bloomsburg currently offers an array of undergraduate and graduate programs in nursing, including a Master of Science in Nursing degree that provides certification in three different
advanced practice roles – adult health clinical nurse specialist, adult/gerontology and family nurse practitioner, and nurse anesthesia.

Clarion and Edinboro Universities will jointly offer a new Doctor of Nursing Practice degree that will help meet the need for advanced care nurses in rural northwestern and midwestern Pennsylvania. Building upon their joint Master of Science in Nursing degree program, the
doctoral program will prepare graduates to serve as primary care providers as well as clinical nursing faculty.

West Chester’s DNP program was designed for nurses who are already advanced practice nurses. It will help address healthcare needs primarily in the southeastern portion of the state.

Clarion University also will add to its existing array of nursing programs a new Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree program approved Jan. 23 by the board. The new degree is designed to prepare graduates to become licensed registered nurses, providing comprehensive
direct and indirect nursing care. Clarion also offers an Associate of Science in Nursing degree and an RN to BSN degree completion program.

Shortly after passage in June 2012 of the Higher Education Modernization Act, which provided opportunities for PASSHE universities to offer professional doctorates, nursing faculty and
academic leaders from Bloomsburg, Clarion, Edinboro and West Chester universities and the Office of the Chancellor engaged in collaborative discussions that resulted in a plan for the development of the three unique and distinct Doctorate of Nursing Practice Degree proposals. Each proposal was designed to meet the varying geographic and population needs of the commonwealth by building upon the diversity and strengths of the existing nursing programs
at the four universities.

With a commitment to meeting regional commonwealth needs, the programs are designed to be offered online for working adults. Opportunities for students and faculty to meet face-to-face or through the use of technology also will be provided. Orientation sessions at the beginning of
the programs, as well as the presentation of capstone projects, are two such examples.

Flexible tuition programs approved

PASSHE universities historically have charged the same tuition rate to all resident students. The Board of Governors last summer began discussing the possibility of allowing the universities to
charge different tuition rates based on program costs. The discussion gained momentum in October when new Chancellor Frank T. Brogan endorsed the idea of allowing the universities to develop pilot programs.

“We are working to achieve a better balance between system-wide coordination and local decision making, which will allow each of our universities to leverage its own strengths to advance the institution and the entire system,” Brogan said.

Six proposals were brought forward to the board for its consideration and approval Jan. 23. A number of others are under development and could come to the board in April. The proposals will need to be approved by the individual university councils of trustees before they can be implemented. The programs will be evaluated over a two-year period to determine their effectiveness, and whether they could be duplicated at other universities or should be discontinued.

“This is a potential sea change for the Board of Governors and PASSHE,” Brogan said when discussing the proposals during the Finance, Administration and Facilities Committee meeting Jan. 22. “The only way we’re going to know if this will work is to study it, vet it and
actually employ it, to see if it has the effect we intended it to have.”

California University of Pennsylvania plans to reduce tuition charged to active members of the military, their spouses and dependents. The reduced rate would match the amount students with
military ties are reimbursed through G.I. assistance programs.

West Chester University of Pennsylvania will reduce by 10 percent the tuition charged to students who take courses it offers at the PASSHE Center City location in downtown Philadelphia.

Three universities – Clarion, East Stroudsburg and Edinboro – will establish new course- or program-specific fees to more appropriately cover the costs of offering their nursing programs.
Clarion will establish a similar fee for its Communication and Speech Disorders program. As part of its approval, the board included language to help ensure low-income students are not negatively impacted by the new fees.

Finally, Edinboro University will reduce its non-resident, undergraduate tuition rate to 105 percent of the resident rate. Currently, the nonresident tuition must be at least 150 percent
of the resident rate.

Published
1/24/2014 1:51 PM

PASSHE Board of Governors approves new strategic plan