The Raging Chicken Press reached out to all four Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls for thoughts and reactions on PASSHE secession legislation – SB 1275 – and have heard back from two of the candidates, Tom Wolf and Rob McCord. In a statement sent to the Raging Chicken Press, Jeffrey Sheridan from the Wolf campaign stated:
“Tom Wolf knows many of the state-owned colleges and universities are frustrated by the State’s continual underfunding of the system and the lack of local autonomy. This combination hampers the ability of college presidents to make decisions that are in the best interest of students, faculty, staff, and the surrounding community.
“While Tom does not believe that West Chester University or any of the state-owned schools should leave the current system, he does believe that serious changes need to be made so that these colleges and universities are able to provide a world-class education. As governor, Tom will increase state funding, make long-term funding projections so that schools can plan and budget responsibly, and explore mechanisms for granting more local control.”
And Mark Nevin from the McCord campaign wrote:
Rob is against the PASSHE secession legislation as these schools offer the most affordable form of four-year, public higher education. If they were to secede from the system and set their own tuition rates, it could potentially exacerbate the already enormous challenge of keeping tuition affordable.
Both of these statements are a step in the right direction, but with the sustained attacks on public higher education from Governor Tom Corbett, and now Senators Dinniman and Tomlinson, these statements are pretty vague. It is obvious that the Wolf campaign supports granting local autonomy to state system schools, but it is unclear how far should that autonomy go. Should state schools be allowed to set their own tuition rates? Should these schools be allowed to develop their online curriculum without central control? Should faculty have a say? And where will funding for the state system of higher education come from or what is a long term funding projection? Will it come from a severance tax?
Unfortunately these statements boil down to a bunch of nothing – or political speak. There are over a hundred thousand students, parents, prospective students and faculty members who are waiting for an Elizabeth Warren-esque plan to restore and strengthen the State System of Higher Education. The access to public higher education can be a ticket or opportunity out of these tough economic times, but we’re still waiting for that candidate to take this issue by the horns.