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Chancellor of Pennsylvania state-owned universities to retire

| Monday, July 17, 2017, 1:21 p.m.
This photo provided by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education shows chancellor Frank T. Brogan. Brogan also served as president of Florida Atlantic University from 2003 to 2009. He's the fourth chancellor to lead Pennsylvania's public university system, the 13th largest in the nation with about 115,000 students. Florida's system is No. 2 with nearly 340,000 students. (AP Photo/Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education)

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is poised to name an interim leader for the system that oversees 14 state-owned universities, due to the planned retirement of Chancellor Frank Brogan on Sept. 1.

The announcement made public Monday came less than a week after a consultant for the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems, or NCHEMS, delivered a report on the financially-troubled university system. It called for major changes in PASSHE oversight, a statewide coordinating board for higher education, more collaboration among schools and an end of politics.

Brogan, 63, assumed leadership of the state system in 2013 after 35 years in higher education and politics in Florida. He collected a salary of $355,266 this year, state records show.

A PASSHE spokesman said Brogan informed the Board of Governors of his pending retirement prior to its meeting last week.

Officials said the board, which oversees the system, will name interim leadership pending a national search for a successor to lead the universities, which enrolled about 105,000 students statewide last fall.

State-system schools in Western Pennsylvania include California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities.

Cynthia D. Shapira, chairwoman of the Board of Governors, hailed Brogan's leadership.

“From the moment he arrived, Chancellor Brogan has shined a bright light on the challenges facing our universities and the state system — prompting important public dialogue about the need to do things differently,” Shapira said. “Because of his leadership, we are better positioned to make important decisions about the future of our system.”

Other university leaders and board members shared Shapira's sentiments.

Still, Brogan's tenure was not without problems, which included continuing declines in enrollment. In addition to an audit that uncovered tens of millions of dollars in irregularities in federal financial aid at Cheyney University, Brogan had to contend with the only faculty strike in the system's 34-year history. The three-day strike in October ended after Gov. Tom Wolf urged the sides back to the bargaining table.

Asked about Brogan's retirement, Kenneth Mash, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, would only say that his organization, which represents 5,500 faculty members and coaches at the state-system universities, is “eager to move forward.”

“Leadership changes often provide opportunities for constructive changes,” Mash said. “One of the key recommendations of the NCHEMS report was that we all have to pull together to make our system work. We are anxious to work with the system so that we can fulfill the system's mission to provide all Pennsylvanians with access to a high-quality education at an affordable cost.”

Thomas Harnisch, director of state relations and policy analysis for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, said the tenure of university system chancellors, like that of college presidents, appears to be getting shorter.

“It's often their last job after a successful career in higher education, so they are older. And they have a more complex job than ever,” Harnisch said. “With social media, a small campus issue can become a national headline in a matter of minutes, and politicians who hear about it will want answers.”

Brogan, who initiated a top-to-bottom review of the university system, said the system is well-positioned for the future.

“The strategic system review is perhaps the most important effort this system has ever undertaken,” Brogan said. “I'm extremely proud of the work we've done to better serve students today and far into the future. This is the system's opportunity to make bold choices that will ensure our universities are here to meet the needs of our current and future students and the commonwealth for decades to come, and beyond.”

A former chancellor of the State University System of Florida, as well as one-time lieutenant governor and secretary of education of Florida, Brogan began his career in education as a fifth-grade teacher.

Debra Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach her at 412-320-7996 or derdley@tribweb.com or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.

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