New Book Claims PASSHE’s Failure to Deliver ‘High Quality Education at the Lowest Possible Cost to the Students’ Stems from a Failure to Plan

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Angelo Armenti, Jr., the former Villanova University Dean and 20-year President of California University (Cal U), recently announced the release of his new book, Privatization Without a Plan: A Failure of Leadership in Pennsylvania Public Higher Education.¹ In it he describes how PASSHE’s 100% political leadership has watched the privatization—i.e., rapid defunding by the State—of the 14 universities since 2002 without committing to a viable plan for preserving and delivering PASSHE’s statutory purpose: “High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,” as called for by law in Act 188.

Privatization Without a Plan

After failing to commit publicly to PASSHE's statutory purpose, would anyone be surprised if PASSHE failed to achieve it," Armenti asked?

In the new book, Privatization Without a Plan: A Failure of Leadership in Pennsylvania Public Higher Education author Angelo Armenti, Jr describes what a lack of planning has been doing to students and the 14 PASSHE universities in Pennsylvania, which include Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester.

According to the book, PASSHE’s failure to deliver on Act 188’s promise to the students, parents and alumni donors—who now pay 75% of the operating budgets at the 14 schools—was inevitable for the following reason: PASSHE has not committed itself publicly to any plan for preserving that purpose. Rather, according to Armenti, PASSHE leaders have avoided mentioning that purpose, both on the website and in public statements by PASSHE’s elected and appointed State officials.

“After failing to commit publicly to PASSHE’s statutory purpose, would anyone be surprised if PASSHE failed to achieve it,” Armenti asked?

According to Amenti, compelling evidence for PASSHE’s failure to plan may be seen in the following facts which are documented on the PASSHE Board of Governors’ website and in his book Privatization Without a Plan: 1) PASSHE has been operating without a strategic plan² since its last one officially expired in 2009; 2) PASSHE has not produced a Factbookᶟ on which planning efforts might be based since 2011; and 3) PASSHE leaders have not acted to preserve and deliver PASSHE’s statutory purpose as enrollments grew by 58% and State funding/FTE student fell⁴ by 50%.

On October 13, 2010 according to Armenti, the PASSHE Board of Governors approved an eight paragraph document entitled “PASSHE Strategic Initiatives,” the first paragraph of which states that “PASSHE’s most recent strategic plan, Leading the Way, expired in 2009.”

“Note,” Armenti said, “that four years have passed since PASSHE’s previous strategic plan expired and yet, PASSHE continues to operate a $1.5 billion enterprise without the benefit of a strategic plan to reaffirm its fundamental purpose and to lay out the major goals, objectives, activities and success measures needed to guide eleven-thousand employees in serving well PASSHE’s 112,000 students.”

The second paragraph is quoted verbatim below:    

“PASSHE Strategic Initiatives is grounded in the System’s mission, ‘to be among the nation’s leading systems of public universities, recognized for (1) access and affordability of excellent undergraduate and graduate education; and (2) responsiveness to state, regional, and national needs through quality academic programs, research, and service.’ PASSHE’s focus has always and will continue to be focused on our students, and on how to ensure that the experiences they have are the most enriching possible.”

Armenti notes that “This three-year old document makes no mention of Act 188 or PASSHE’s statutory purpose: ‘Its purpose shall be to provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students.’ According to Merriam-Webster the word ‘shall,’ when used in laws, means a directive ‘to express what is mandatory.’ Regrettably, the Board of Governors did not include this legal directive from Act 188 into its PASSHE Strategic Initiatives document.”

Armenti also notes that “While the document does include a passing reference to ‘quality’ academic programs, it totally ignores the Act 188 promise of high quality education ‘at the lowest possible cost to the students.’ Avoiding any public mention of that half of PASSHE’s statutory purpose suggests that the PASSHE Board of Governors may not even try to achieve it which, if true, would be an abdication of responsibility with staggering negative consequences for 112,000 current and future PASSHE students.”

According to its website, PASSHE has not produced a Factbook since FY 2011. “And,” according to Armenti, “all serious strategic plans involve goals specified in the following terms: ‘From x to y in time t;’ meaning that one needs to know where one is with regard to each strategic variable in order to plan for and achieve a desired improvement within a certain time frame. PASSHE’s failure to produce annual Factbooks since 2011 means that the Act 188 statutory purpose of the PASSHE universities is not likely to be achieved under PASSHE’s current leadership, due to what appears to be a cavalier attitude with regard to the need for planning.”

Privatization Without a Plan, according to the book, documents a 58% increase in student enrollment (from 71,091 to 112,180 students) combined with a 50% decrease in State appropriation per student (from $7,386 to $3,679 in constant dollars). These conflicting 30-year trends illustrate the dilemma faced by the PASSHE universities (more and more students to educate and fewer and fewer State dollars with which to educate them), and the PASSHE students (higher and higher levels of student loan debt as State funding continues to erode).

“As more and more students seek the promise of public higher education in Pennsylvania—high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students—the State is seen shifting more and more of the cost of education to the students and parents themselves, negating the very concept of ‘public’ in the term ‘public higher education,’” Armenti said.

¹ Privatization Without a Plan: A Failure of Leadership in Pennsylvania Public Higher Education is on sale now, available from in paperback and e-book.

Dr. Angelo Armenti Jr. served as President of California University of Pennsylvania (Cal U) from 1992 to 2012. Before that, he was a Dean at Villanova University, a professor of physics, and author of The Physics of Sports (American Institute of Physics, 1992). During his career at Cal U, Armenti is credited with establishing numerous funding sources for student scholarships and for campus revitalization projects, efforts made in part to address the problems that he describes in Privatization Without a Plan. In June of 2012, Armenti founded a non-profit corporation entitled The Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities (PASCU) whose mission it is to preserve the purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania. He also writes for his weekly blog at

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