Editor’s Note: College consolidation is sometimes key to improving student outcomes

PASSHE’s Dan Greenstein made a tough call – but the right one.

PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein

PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein Amanda Berg

Pennsylvania public universities have seen the biggest decline in enrollment in more than a decade – that’s according to the State System’s own data. All 14 of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education universities appear to be struggling in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

Declining enrollment numbers, difficulty retaining students, funding and staffing shortfalls – these data points have become so grim that there has been increasingly loud talk of shuttering some colleges altogether. That’s why there’s been pressure on PASSHE to follow the lead of other states and reorganize and consolidate its campuses to reduce costs and overhead.

According to PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein, consolidation is not only necessary to keep the schools viable – but to keep the doors open at all. As a measure of just how dire these straits have been, last year, he suggested to members of the state Senate that he would recommend to his board of governors that the State System be dissolved completely if the consolidation plan was rejected. 

The cost savings from consolidation can lead to productivity improvements like an increase in graduation rates, more student resources to go around and reduced student fees. Of course, Greenstein’s reorganization has been criticized by staff and faculty as contra the university system altogether – which is why I’ve come up with another solution – albeit one that is unconventional and likely unpopular: wait.

Just wait. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that we don’t know anything – and that includes about the traditional educational path. There is no reason to go to college right after high school unless you absolutely know what you are going for – and you know for sure how it’s going to be paid for – and by whom. 

Go to a community college. Sign up for extension courses. Study asynchronously. Take advantage of the greatest job market in a generation and go work in a field you’re interested in entering. One of the first things college is supposed to teach you is to think for yourself – so why not start doing that before you matriculate?

Greenstein’s groundbreaking consolidation proposal was no doubt borne out of a need and desire to do what’s best for both the system and the students. So why not cut out the middleman – and just do what’s best for yourself as well?