Pennsylvania Governor Pitches College Affordability Plan, Education System Overhaul

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Pennsylvania’s Democratic Governor Josh Shapiro introduced a new plan to restructure higher education in the state known to rank among the lowest in affordability and state investment in higher education. 

Although more details are expected in Shapiro’s February 6 budget address, some information was presented in a news release Friday. He identified the project as a three-part blueprint created with ideas from a working group of college and university presidents assembled by Shapiro last year.

The first part of the plan is focused on uniting Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities and the state’s 15 community colleges under a new governance system to improve partnerships and create pathways to affordable credentials and degrees.

Second, to further access and affordability, the plan calls for Pennsylvanians making up to the median state income to pay no more than $1,000 in tuition and fees per semester at state-owned universities and community colleges. To assist, the plan proposes an increase in Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency grants for all students by $1,000.

Lastly, Shapiro is proposing a performance-based funding model which rewards public and state-related colleges and universities for achieving outcomes that benefit the community, including factors like increasing enrollment, the number of first-generation students, and graduation rates. It will also incentivize institutions to recruit and support students to complete degrees and earn credentials in growing fields and those with workforce shortages.

Shapiro proposes advancing this model through the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

“This will no longer require a two-thirds vote in the legislature, breaking the cycle of political gamesmanship that has held funding hostage,” his office announced. 

The plan aims to keep young people in the state, attract more workers and companies, help students find good-paying jobs, and help employers locate needed talent.

“Every Pennsylvanian deserves the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed,” said Shapiro. “For some, that means going right into the workforce – but for those who want to go to college or get a credential, we need to rethink our system of higher education.”