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Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) Strategic System Review

Topics Challenges Approach Impacts Resources


In 2017, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) selected NCHEMS to conduct a strategic review of the State System, from each of their 14 campuses through the Office of the Chancellor, to identify changes that would result in financial sustainability and help with their ability to fulfill their mission in the coming years.


PASSHE and its institutions were facing demographic decline, dwindling enrollment, and diminished state support. The fiscal conditions for several of the system institutions were sufficiently dire that policymakers were calling for institutional closure as the necessary response to the System’s financial problems. Just prior to the review, the System settled the first strike by collective bargaining units in its history, but tensions remained elevated.


NCHEMS examined a wide range data from public sources as well as from the State System. These data provided insights that allowed pinpointing specific problems and the content that helped to focus discussions with stakeholders. They also helped in the identification o potential solutions.

NCHEMS participated in 120 meetings that involved hundreds of individuals throughout the Commonwealth. A website was created to gather input from additional stakeholders and the general public, and 856 comments were received.

Based on data analyses and stakeholder engagement, a final report that highlighted findings, observations, and recommendations was prepared and presented to PASSHE. This report recommended that, rather than closing institutions (which would deprive their communities and students of a vital resource for educational opportunity), the System press forward with efforts to share both academic programs and administrative operations, and to enhance support services to serve a changing population of students. The report also recommended clarifying the decision authorities of the System Board and campus advisory boards.


As a result of this work, PASSHE intentionally utilized NCHEMS’ report as a roadmap for system-wide change, and its inclusive approach to gathering input from affected stakeholders helped create the conditions for more productive engagement between system and institutional leadership and union leadership. Now several years on, PASSHE is in the process of implementing changes that are substantially in line with the recommendations made in the report.