PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A bill that would let universities leave the state system of higher education is expected next week in the state legislature.
The sponsor of the bill sees it as a way to help universities grow, but the state chancellor says it could drive up tuition, while weakening the schools that remain.
On the campus of Slippery Rock University, students worry that any effort to go quasi-independent will change the culture.
“I think it probably would in terms of cost and the goals of the community and stuff,” said one student.
“It would also be very different. It wouldn’t have that community-driven environment like it currently has, another student added.
But proponents argue the state schools could do a better job handling their own business rather than depending on the state system.
Of the schools in western Pennsylvania – California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock – only Clarion University would not qualify to split away.
The chancellor of the state system warns, “There will be a natural proclivity to want to raise tuition and fees when that independence is there and you become a state related.”
Chancellor Frank Brogan pointed out the state system schools like Slippery Rock currently charge about $7,000 a year, and the independent state schools like Pitt and Penn State are about $10,000 more.
“I would not like that at all. I would think about honestly transferring,” one student said.
“People would start going to other schools that are still state schools just for the cheaper cost,” another student added.
“We are trying to get college out of the way so we can start our lives without just indebting ourselves,” a student said.
Plus, any school choosing to go its own way must come up with the money to purchase all its land and buildings from the state.
“The problem I have there is the money they would be using to buy it back would be the money being paid by students, and families and taxpayers,” said Brogan
The legislation will be introduced on Tuesday, and must then pass the legislature, which is no guarantee.
The governor must then sign it and only then will the schools start deciding whether they want to separate from the system. In short, none of this is going to happen very quickly.