Staffing cuts as a result of merging six state universities, including California University of Pennsylvania, into two are expected to be “relatively small” and mostly involve management positions, the chancellor of the state System of Higher Education said Wednesday.
Chancellor Daniel Greenstein made that clear after the state system held a special meeting to approve the mergers, sending the plan into the public comment phase for 60 days.
“Not everyone will be pleased with everything,” Cindy Shapira, chairwoman of the state system board of governors, said while opening the 8:30 a.m. virtual meeting.
Cal U. is expected to be the main campus when it merges with Edinboro and Clarion under a Western Pennsylvania school that has yet to be named. The other mergers involve Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield.
The board said there are many questions that have yet to be answered as the plans move forward, calling for each of the merged schools to share one management team.
Where the president of the two universities will live is still being debated, said Bashar W. Hanna, president of Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania.
Each of the six campuses will retain their identities, and, Hanna said, they all will retain students service offices.
The integrated schools are the state system’s response to declining enrollments and millions of dollars in financial shortfalls.
Some of the 14 state-owned schools had been considering furloughing a total of 150 faculty members, a number that has been reduced to about 45, Greenfield said.
The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, which represents 5,000 professors and coaches, expressed concerns about the mergers having a greater impact on staffing cuts.
At a virtual rally Wednesday afternoon, its representatives complained about a lack of transparency in the merger plan, saying it was rushed and needed to be halted.
APSCUF President Jamie Martin said it was difficult to believe there was “so little detail” in the more than 400-page plan.
“It is very short on detail, said Rick Bloomingdale, president of Pennsylvania AFL-CIO. “This is a bad idea.”
Martin said the union doesn’t know the full impact of job losses because of the mergers.
Lock Haven student Kyle Schlecht said during the rally that many students don’t support the mergers.
“We’re going to fight this until the end,” Schlecht said.
The universities have a combined enrollment of about 93,000 students, a number that has declined by more than 20% over the past 10 years.
The smaller schools “just don’t have the income” to maintain all of the programming, Hanna said.
“The business model is not working,” Shapira said. “You have to address it.”
Meanwhile, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education has yet to rule on accrediting the mergers, and the National Collegiate Athletics Association was still debating the sports programming at the six campus locations.
The mergers should result in a 2% enrollment increase in Western Pennsylvania, mostly through online offerings that are expected to expand.
The board of governors is expected to vote again July 14 on the integrations that would happen in August 2022.