Sep. 27, 2023

HARRISBURG – As students struggle with the finances necessary to pursue their lifelong goals, House Republican Policy Committee Chairman Joshua D. Kail (R-Beaver/Washington) held a hearing to delve into the escalating expenses of higher education and options that will eliminate obstacles to opportunity.

“The cost of higher education continues to increase, and these barriers are turning dreams into nightmares for Pennsylvania students,” said Kail. “That is why it is important that we as legislators look at other cost drivers our colleges and universities face and potential policy changes that can reduce those costs. However, it is just as crucial that all colleges and universities be good partners in providing a great education at an affordable price. With so much public money going towards these critical institutions, accountability and transparency for Pennsylvania families is essential. Government cannot be a rubber stamp entity that blindly approves state funding. Public office is a public trust.”

The hearing’s testifiers were:
• Dr. Daniel Greenstein, chancellor, Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE).
• Tom Foley, president, Association of Independent Colleges and Universities of Pennsylvania (AICUP).
• Dr. Quintin Bullock, president, Community College of Allegheny County, on behalf of Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.

According to Greenstein, 60% of all jobs in Pennsylvania require someone with some postsecondary education, which only 51% of adults have – leading to an absence of an appropriately skilled labor force. He mentioned that Pennsylvania is currently ranked 41st nationally in unemployment, compared to sitting 24th just 10 years ago.

“Pennsylvania can only fill its talent gap if low- and middle-income people who are currently priced out of Pennsylvania higher education can afford to participate,” said Greenstein. “The gap is too big to be filled by the affluent who are not yet educated to a postsecondary level.”

Foley laid out initiatives that AICUP participates in to save money and stabilize tuition rates against the competition. This includes:
• Launching an “eTextbook” program that allows students to save between $380-$580 per year while having access to the entire catalog of the nation’s largest academic textbook publisher.
• Partaking in a software consortium which allows for purchasing Microsoft, Adobe and VMware software licenses through aggregated contracts, which saves schools about a quarter of the cost if purchased alone.
• Enrolling in a bond financing program when schools borrow money for construction projects, saving millions of dollars up front and over the long term.

“We all know that the benefits of a college degree extend beyond just wages,” said Foley. “The Pew Research Center has reported that college graduates outperform their peers with less education on virtually every measure of economic well-being and career attainment. My family knows the value of a college degree in a personal way. Our grandparents landed on these shores with the equivalent of grade school educations and their 13 grandchildren share 19 degrees between them.”

Bullock said investing in, and adopting, a dual enrollment program will reduce the time and cost for students to obtain postsecondary degrees or credentials – creating a significant positive impact on the students.

“Pennsylvania, prior to the start of Fiscal Year 2022-23, was one of two states that did not have a statewide program to subsidize the cost for families to enroll their students in dual enrollment programs,” said Bullock. “This matters as, despite the significant discount provided by community colleges to high school students and their families, the cost of dual enrollment remains prohibitive for students coming from lower-income families.”

“Thank you to the testifiers and members of the committee for joining us to provide meaningful discussion during this forum,” said Kail. “We must be disruptors of the status quo in order to create necessary change, and we now have a pathway in which we can do so.”

To view the full hearing, click the link here.

Representative Josh Kail
15th District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives

Media Contact: Nate Temple
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