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### Shapiro’s Higher Education Reform Plan: $1,000 per Semester and More

(The Center Square) – Governor Josh Shapiro has unveiled a proposal to transform higher education in Pennsylvania by consolidating PASSHE universities and community colleges under a new governance system, aiming to reduce costs to $1,000 per semester.

Over the past decade, Pennsylvania has experienced a decline in student enrollment, leading the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to streamline operations by merging six universities into two. While Democrats advocate for increased state funding to support the system, Republicans emphasize the importance of linking funding to outcomes and collaborating with educational institutions.

Additionally, under the governor’s plan, state-related universities that have been attracting students away from PASSHE schools would also receive a funding boost.

Governor Shapiro expressed the need to provide every Pennsylvanian with the opportunity to pursue higher education at an affordable cost, emphasizing the importance of accessible pathways for skill enhancement, career advancement, and degree attainment. He highlighted the necessity of reevaluating the state’s higher education system to align with the evolving needs of the workforce and contribute to Pennsylvania’s economic prosperity.

Acknowledging the decades-long disinvestment in the higher education system, Shapiro intends to propose a substantial investment for colleges in his upcoming budget address. The plan includes capping tuition and fees at $1,000 per semester for students at PASSHE schools and community colleges whose income falls below the median, while also increasing grants for students at state-related universities and independent colleges.

Furthermore, the governor’s proposal advocates for a transparent and outcomes-driven funding formula for colleges, particularly at Penn State, considering factors such as enrollment growth, success rates of first-generation college students, and graduation rates. This model aims to incentivize enrollment in fields facing workforce shortages and would be applicable to both PASSHE schools and state-related universities.

Numerous college presidents and county officials have expressed support for Governor Shapiro’s initiative, emphasizing the potential for enhanced collaboration and expanded educational pathways within the proposed system.

While House Republicans have shown cautious optimism towards the plan, they await further details before fully endorsing it. Emphasizing a student-centric approach, they aim to strike a balance between meeting the needs of students and families while ensuring fiscal responsibility within the commonwealth’s higher education framework.

Performance-based funding, a strategy prevalent in many states, remains a focal point of the discussion, with the potential to drive institutional improvements based on outcomes. Studies suggest that such funding models may lead to increased selectivity among colleges and the development of more concise educational programs.