Governor signs Higher Education Modernization Act

Governor signs Higher Education Modernization Act

Bloomsburg University and 13 sister universities to benefit

Higher Education Modernization Act BLOOMSBURG — A series of bills known collectively as the Higher Education Modernization Act will provide Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and her sister institutions in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education with new competitive and cost-savings opportunities.

Under the act, signed into law by Gov. Tom Corbett, the universities also will be able to offer advanced degree programs to meet the needs of employers in the region and commonwealth. The signing comes as the final step in an 18-month process, and the measures will take effect in about two months.

Bloomsburg University President David L. Soltz said the Higher Education Modernization Act benefits faculty, students and each PASSHE university with increased opportunities for research, high-level degree programs and entrepreneurship.

“The Higher Education Modernization Act enables faculty to engage in commercial arrangements they previously could not explore,” said Soltz. “The governor’s signature on these measures means PASSHE universities, including Bloomsburg, will be able to recruit creative faculty who will develop additional grants, funding and patents. By example, these faculty will inspire our students to be active researchers and, perhaps, to remain at our campus for applied doctoral programs. Our entire campus community, region and commonwealth will benefit.”

The legislation will enable PASSHE faculty, staff and students to work directly with businesses to develop commercial applications for inventions they develop in the course of their research, something they are restricted from doing due to their status as state employees.

PASSHE Chancellor John C. Cavanaugh said, “It creates a level playing field, not only with all other institutions of higher education in the commonwealth, but also with other public universities throughout the country.”

The measure could enhance the universities’ ability to recruit and retain faculty and staff while providing new opportunities for students to engage in research and to participate in internships, Cavanaugh added. It also could provide new revenue streams for the universities, as more new inventions are taken to market.

While Bloomsburg University currently offers one doctoral degree, the doctor of clinical audiology, all PASSHE universities will be able to offer applied, or professional, doctorates under the modernization act. Only Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) can now offer doctoral degrees independently and, under the legislation, IUP will remain the only PASSHE university with the right to award Ph.Ds., or research doctorates.

“PASSHE universities will work closely with employers across Pennsylvania to identify their specific needs and then to develop the programs necessary to address those needs,” Cavanaugh said. “This is another way the State System can help promote economic development in the commonwealth while, at the same time, providing students even greater opportunities to ensure their success.”

The two remaining pieces of the legislative package enable the universities to generate additional revenue through private fundraising and to reduce their purchasing costs. University presidents, faculty and other employees can be more active in fundraising, an important revenue source in the face of the continuing decline in state funding.

The newly signed legislation also will allow the institutions to join large purchasing consortia, possibly resulting in greater cost savings than under the current arrangement under which the PASSHE universities jointly purchase goods and services. The current system helped contribute more than $220 million in overall savings across the System over the last decade.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, with nearly 120,000 students. The 14 PASSHE universities offer degree and certificate programs in more than 120 areas of study. About 500,000 PASSHE alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.

The state-owned universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. PASSHE also operates branch campuses in Clearfield, Freeport, Oil City and Punxsutawney and several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 10,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Education, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.