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Minimum funding for Pa. state colleges urged by governor's commission

| Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012, 7:20 a.m.

A governor's advisory commission on Wednesday recommended a minimum funding level for Pennsylvania's colleges and universities and urged tying increased funding to performance.

“These suggestions focus on what is important to our students now — accessibility and affordability,” Gov. Tom Corbett said in a prepared statement accompanying the report's release. “At the same time, it plans for the future by recommending programs that will prepare our students for careers here in Pennsylvania.”

The 31-member Advisory Commission on Postsecondary Education published its 19-point list of recommendations for making the state's 402 public and private colleges more effective in reaching students of all ages; more effective in using limited state funding; and more in tune with the educational needs of employers.

“It was really more about a long-term framework for change in the way higher education services will be delivered to citizens of the commonwealth,” said Robert Wonderling, CEO of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce and chairman of the commission.

The commission recommended the state set a minimum of $1.67 billion in funding for post-secondary education, equal to what's budgeted in the 2012-13 fiscal year. Funding would grow to $1.93 billion by 2015-16, with increases for each institution depending on how well they contain costs, respond to workforce needs, close achievement gaps, attract research funding and publish useful information for potential students.

In a statement, University of Pittsburgh Chancellor Mark Nordenberg said the recommendations reiterated the importance of steady funding and of research institutions such as Pitt.

Suggested new programs would create an online “passport” for students to choose and manage courses and training from different institutions; target short-term courses and training programs for different regions and industries through “Community Education Councils”; and create a consortium of research institutions to advise the governor on the funding needed to maintain Pennsylvania's place in the global market.

Wonderling said the passport system would allow employers and educators to create apps to deliver education, training and hiring opportunities. “(The system) is citizen-centric. It recognizes the full potential of the free market and technology,” he said.

The report and its full list of recommendations can be found at pahigheredcommission.com.

Matthew Santoni is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5625 or msantoni@tribweb.com.

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