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Speaker Turzai joins university board; says changes should be on the table

| Monday, June 11, 2018, 6:21 p.m.
PA State Rep. Mike Turzai responds to reporters questions after Governor Tom Corbett's budget address in Harrisburg, Tuesday.
PA State Rep. Mike Turzai responds to reporters questions after Governor Tom Corbett's budget address in Harrisburg, Tuesday.

Pennsylvania State House Speaker Mike Turzai, R-Bradford Woods, Monday said he'll give careful consideration to a recommendation that the Pennsylvania State System of High Education be handed over to one of the four state-related universities—Pitt, Penn State, Temple and Lincoln.

Turzai's comments came as he assumed a seat on the Board of Governors that oversees the 14 state-owned universities in the State System which includes California, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana and Slippery Rock universities in Western Pennsylvania.

The State System that has struggled with declining enrollment and stagnant state funding is in the midst of a comprehensive overhaul as officials weigh recommendations from two studies, one commissioned by the State System and a second one commissioned by the Legislative Budget and finance Committee.

“The legislative study includes several recommendations that many of us have discussed for some time. Each of these options deserves careful consideration. We should be open to the suggestion that the state-related schools—Penn State, Pitt, Temple and Lincoln—should take responsibility and ownership of a troubled state system university. Penn State took responsibility and ownership of Penn College of Technology in 1989, and by all measures has been a success,” Turzai said in a press release announcing his decision to replace former state Rep. Matt Baker on the board.

Baker who resigned from the legislature earlier this year, previously held the seat reserved for the House Republican caucus on the board that oversees policies and board management of the State System. In addition to the governor and representatives from each legislative caucus, the board includes 14 gubernatorial appointees and the state secretary of education.

Turzai said he anticipates the PASSHE schools as well as the state-related universities will receive increased funding in this year's state budget and urged officials at all 18 universities to freeze tuition and room and board for the 2019-20 school year.

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

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