Pa. chancellor of higher education visits Kutztown University

There is power and promise in public higher education, Dr. Daniel Greenstein said.

Greenstein, chancellor of the Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education, spoke Thursday during an interactive forum on higher education at Kutztown University.

“I’m here to hear from you,” he said. “But I’ve been thinking about and writing about public higher education, the power and promise of public education, so I want to start there.”

Proof of that power and promise is found at KU, he said, where students from all walks of life can pursue an affordable, quality education that can lead to jobs in which they will be able to sustain themselves and their families.

“You show that it can be done,” he said.

The university has demonstrated tremendous success in growing, he said, noting overall undergraduate enrollment is up about 9% and first-time freshmen enrollment is up about 7%.

Total enrollment over the past 18 to 19 years increased by about 42%, he said, with diversity seen in about 29% of the student population and the retention rate at an all-time high.

“You’re not changing lives,” Greenstein said, “you’re actually saving them. And you demonstrate the power and promise of public higher education.”

Advocacy for the funding over the last four years has been driven by success stories, such as KU’s, he said.

Dr. Daniel Greenstein, state chancellor of higher education, holds an open forum with Kutztown University faculty, staff, administrators and students Thursday in the McFarland Student Union building on the Kutztown campus. (BILL UHRICH - READING EAGLE)
Dr. Daniel Greenstein, state chancellor of higher education, holds an open forum with Kutztown University faculty, staff, administrators and students Thursday in the McFarland Student Union building on the KU. (BILL UHRICH – READING EAGLE)

Although it is clear the Legislature does not speak with one voice, Greenstein said, there is prevailing belief in the power of public higher education and a genuine interest in investing in a public higher education system.

But there also is real concern over the continued increase in student tuition, which has risen 5.5% a year from 2010 to 2018, at state universities, he said.

Greenstein said he made a deliberate decision to address those challenges by redesigning the higher education system to future-proof it and ensure it continues to pursue the historic mission of providing quality education for all.

To do that, he said, there must be additional investment in state colleges and universities from the state.

The pathway to that investment, he said, is to rebuild the confidence of the general assembly.

“We made tremendous progress,” he said. “We didn’t just flatten the curve of the net price of attendance, we bent it down.”

There is still more work to, he said, and the journey ahead may be even more difficult than the one behind, but it is essential.

About 60% of all jobs in the state now require a higher degree of education, which only 51% of Pennsylvanians have, he said.

“How do we fill that gap?” he asked, “With whom?”

Knowing the base of traditional students is shrinking, he said, the power and promise of public higher education must broaden to reach those who have been underserved in the past, whether they are adults, low-income students from under-resourced communities or rural students.

After a question-and-answer session with attendees, Greenstein participated in a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the newly renovated DeLight E. Breidegam Building, headquarters of the university’s Pennsylvania German Cultural and Heritage Center.

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