President Pehrsson Discusses Possible Clarion U., Cal U. Integration

| July 20, 2020

phersonCLARION, Pa. – The Board of Governors for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education took the next step in the ongoing System Redesign last week.

The BOG voted to allow a financial review to determine if an integration strategy will result in the long-term goal of financial sustainability for the 14 individual universities and for the State System as a whole. The strategy proposes programmatically pairing several universities.

The vote initiates further exploration to build upon the online program strengths of both Clarion University and California University. The integration could stand up a low-cost, high-quality, fully online undergraduate degree and degree-completion program.

Clarion and California could lead this for the State System and provide educational opportunities for citizens of the commonwealth.

“During this next phase of System Redesign, we will work together to provide Clarion University with a framework to grow new student markets and become financially stronger,” said Clarion University President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson. “It allows us to continue to provide the robust student life, cultural opportunities and intercollegiate athletic programs which make our college experience so special.”

“Clarion University consistently has proven itself a leader in innovation and online education, not only the in State System, but in the nation. The proposed partnership aligns with a recommendation of Clarion’s Financial Sustainability Advisory Taskforce to leverage the strength of Clarion’s online delivery and to develop new programs and partnerships. The integration provides an opportunity for the university to build on its existing online presence.”

Pehrsson continued, “Clarion University will continue its mission and lead the region in our on-the-ground undergraduate residential educational presence. The university has a strong reputation in education, health, business, and human services; these legacy programs will remain and, university leaders believe, become even stronger.”

While honoring institutional identity, university integration may enable the State System to ensure that all of its 14 institutions can sustainably provide their students and their communities with affordable, quality higher education for years to come.

The review will examine the financial impacts of integration with regard to a unified leadership team; a single faculty and staff; a single academic program array; a unified enrollment management strategy; a unified budget; and a single reporting line to the BOG, through the chancellor.

Among the factors being examined will be the potential to save money and to grow new markets, while keeping student success and opportunities at the forefront.

“We have a unique opportunity to shape the future of public higher education in Pennsylvania, ensuring it continues to act as an engine of social mobility and economic development for all,” Chancellor Dan Greenstein said.

A financial review is the first step toward integrating universities as outlined in Act 50 of 2020 – legislation that passed the General Assembly with overwhelming bipartisan support and was signed into law by Gov. Tom Wolf in July. Act 50 requires a detailed, transparent, and broadly consultative review, planning and implementation process, one that will be undertaken over the next two years.

Clarion University submitted its draft Financial Sustainability Plan to the State System June 19. The plan makes 22 recommendations that will increase revenue or decrease expenses; those recommendations are available on our website. This fall, workgroups will be established to study the feasibility of the recommendations and, as appropriate, to operationalize and implement them.


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