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Vote to integrate Mansfield, Lock Haven universities set for this week

Wednesday is a big day for Mansfield and Lock Haven universities.

It’s when the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s governing body — the Board of Governors — is scheduled to vote on integrating Mansfield and LHU with Bloomsburg.

Simultaneously, the board will vote on integrating three other state-run schools in western Pennsylvania.

The action will come after a consolidation was formally proposed in April, kicking off a 60-day public comment period.

An overwhelming majority of comments received by the

PASSHE administration on the consolidation reflected opposition.

Among many arguments against integration, opponents say the plan will diminish educational opportunities for students, result in significant job losses and negatively impact host communities.

The administration, however, insists that merging the schools is the best way to sustain them in the face of declining enrollment over the past decade, along with state funding that hasn’t kept up with payroll and operational costs.

The quarterly public meetings will start at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and will resume at 10 a.m. on Thursday via Zoom.

Both can be streamed via www.youtube.com/user/statesystem and can also be accessed on Zoom by joining and using the Meeting ID: 979 8078 6196.

Anyone is allowed to offer public comment via Zoom or by phone by dialing 646-558-8656 no later than 10:30 a.m. Wednesday and 10 a.m. on Thursday.

On Wednesday’s agenda is this proposed motion: “That the Board of Governors approves the updated West and Northeast implementation plans as provided to the Board; further, with this action, the Board expressly prohibits the closure of the campuses at Bloomsburg, California, Clarion, Edinboro, Lock Haven and Mansfield.”

Further, the proposal “assume the integrated universities will begin operations in fiscal year 2022-2023 and will phase-in changes over a multi-year timeline with mission critical changes phased in first. The process for implementing these plans will be collaborative and transparent, requiring the sustained engagement of students, faculty, staff, university and system leaders, elected officials, community leaders and others across the State System. Quarterly updates would be provided to the Board of Governors and General Assembly according to Act 50 and to ensure alignment with board-approved metrics so that adjustments can be made as needed,” the agenda reads.

Under integration, PASSHE said each campus will continue to provide a residential university experience, including face-to-face classes and engagement with faculty and staff, participation on athletic teams, in co-curricular activities, and in student clubs and organizations.

“The integrated universities will also provide opportunities for working students and others seeking online and hybrid learning modalities. Students at the integrated universities will also benefit from enhanced support services that lead to improved educational outcomes,” the agenda reads.

The administration last week put an updated integration plan online for the public.

The plan is “the result of nearly a year’s worth of work by more than 1,000 students, faculty, staff and others who were part of more than 200 work-groups.”

It includes “collective input gleaned from more than eight hours of live public comments across four hearings and multiple board meetings plus more than 1,000 written comments received during the 60-day public comment period.”

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