New Book Documents Decline in Quality of PASSHE’s Total Educational Experience since 2002

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 Using official PASSHE data, the book traces 30 years of total revenue per student, a proxy measure for the quality of the total education experience, and documents a 10% decline in that statistic between 2002 and 2013.

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Privatization Without a Plan

PASSHE’s funding trends and policy decisions since 2002 have managed, according to Armenti, to undo half the quality gains of the previous 19 years.

Chesterbrook, PA (PRWEB) January 25, 2014

The book describes the effect that the recent failure by PASSHE’s 100% political leadership to deliver the promise of Act 188—high quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students—is having on the 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.

High Quality Education

According to the book, the term ‘high quality education’ is given meaning primarily through a number of proxy measures where a proxy measure approximates or represents a phenomenon in the absence of a direct measure of that phenomenon. For example, average faculty compensation has been widely seen as a predictive proxy measure for academic quality.

Similarly, according to Armenti, E&G (Educational and General) revenue per FTE student has been seen as a predictive proxy measure for a high quality educational experience—which includes academic quality—but goes on to include other educationally enhancing amenities such as technology, internships, travel, facilities and equipment, all of which—just as with faculty compensation—require financial resources.

According to the book, average faculty compensation is a key ingredient in academic quality, meaning that it also figures prominently in PASSHE’s statutory purpose of providing the “high quality education” called for in Act 188. The correct response to privatization without a plan then, according to Armenti, is not to lower salaries but, instead, to provide sufficient revenue to make up for the loss in State appropriation.

According to the book, the high quality education called for in Act 188’s statutory purpose is more than a high quality academic experience indicated, e.g., by a proxy measure citing high average faculty compensation. For that reason, according to Armenti, total E&G revenue per FTE student is the proper proxy measure to gauge whether the promise of Act is or is not being met with regard to ‘high quality education.’

Total E&G revenue per FTE student, according to the book, is the sum of two parts: State appropriation per FTE student, plus Tuition+Fees+Other Revenue per FTE student.

As a proxy measure for the quality of the total educational experience—including both in-class and out-of-class aspects—changes in the Total E&G Revenue per FTE Student, according to Armenti, also reveal how the quality of that experience has varied over the past 30 years, as the relative shares of State appropriation on the one hand, and Tuition+Fees+Other revenue on the other, rose or fell.

A close look at PASSHE’s 30-year data² reveals that State appropriation per FTE student has been falling steadily (from $7,386 to $3,679), while tuition per FTE student has been increasing steadily (from $4,347 to $9,864). For the first 19 years of PASSHE history, according to the book, tuition increases more than overcame the decline in purchasing power caused by falling appropriation support. But in the last 11 years, increasing tuition revenues have not been large enough to overcome the rapid drop in State appropriation. As a result, according to Armenti, the proxy measure for the quality of the total educational experience has fallen sharply.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                            
The highpoint in Total E&G Revenue per FTE Student and inferred educational quality occurred in 2002, according to the book, and came to $15,115 (in 2013 dollars) per FTE student, a figure that was 29% higher than the $11,734 figure recorded on day one of the PASSHE system in the fall of 1983. By 2013, that statistic had fallen to $13,544, a figure that is only 15% higher than the 1983 figure, meaning that PASSHE’s funding trends and policy decisions since 2002 have managed, according to Armenti, to undo half the quality gains of the previous 19 years.

The Role of PASCU

According to Armenti, the failure by PASSHE’s 100% political leadership to deliver the promise of Act 188 to its majority financial stakeholders—the PASSHE students, parents and donors, primarily alumni—was a major reason behind his decision to create PASCU, the Pennsylvania Association of State Colleges and Universities, in 2012. PASCU’s official mission is “To ensure that the statutory purpose of public higher education in Pennsylvania as specified by Act 188 of 1982: ‘High quality education at the lowest possible cost to the students,’ is indefinitely preserved and faithfully delivered.” In implementing that mission, according to Armenti, PASCU seeks to earn a place as the voice of PASSHE’s currently disenfranchised majority stakeholders.

¹ Privatization Without a Plan: A Failure of Leadership in Pennsylvania Public Higher Education is on sale now, available from Amazon.com in paperback and e-book. http://www.amazon.com/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=angelo%20armenti.
² https://www.keepandshare.com/doc/6794551/privatization-without-a-plan-chart-9-and-caption-january-23-2014-pdf-387k.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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 http://angeloarmenti.blogspot.com/.


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