– In efforts to ensure the financial stability of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), the Indiana University of Pennsylvania (IUP) has indicated the financial need for faculty layoffs as well as significant changes to its academic programs. State Rep. Jim Struzzi (R-Indiana) issued the following statement on the matter:
“Recently, our community has been made aware of the unfortunate news of impending job losses, possible program changes and retrenchment at IUP. I am deeply concerned about the impacts this could have on our local economy, faculty, students and the future of the programs targeted for reduction. No one wants to see this occur, and I truly empathize with anyone whose job may be in jeopardy. The current dire financial situations at IUP and PASSHE were accelerated by COVID-19. Universities and colleges across the country, both public and private alike, are facing the necessity of difficult decisions to ensure the future viability of these institutions.
“My role as a legislator is to advocate for funding for the state system, which I have done since taking office. I am not involved in IUP’s academic decisions, nor do I have oversight regarding IUP administration. I have, however, been in discussions with IUP President Dr. Michael Driscoll as well as PASSHE Chancellor Daniel Greenstein and have taken every opportunity to express my concerns. As a member of the PASSHE caucus in Harrisburg, I am keenly aware of the challenges the system is facing. Enrollment has seen a significant decline, and the state system has been losing money for many years. The financial gap the system faces is large enough that it is not feasible, in these difficult financial times, to ask the taxpayers of Pennsylvania to bear the burden of filling it with tax dollars alone. Put very candidly, unless significant changes occur, the university as a whole will fail. There would be negative impacts on a multitude of levels if schools in the state system have to close, particularly IUP.
“Knowing this, we passed legislation to allow consolidation and restructuring of PASSHE schools while protecting the autonomy of IUP and ensuring its future viability. These bills were developed with input from the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Facilities as well as PASSHE. They were not, by any means, an order to eliminate programs or positions, but rather gave the system’s administrators the flexibility they need to begin a process of specialization and focus on what they do best as individual schools within the larger entity of the system.
“There has been much focus by students, faculty, and the community on the impact of restructuring on IUP’s Fine Arts. As a graduate with an English writing degree from the University of Pittsburgh, I am a supporter of the fine arts, humanities and social sciences. My children take lessons at the IUP Community Music School. There is fear amongst the community about losing access to such valuable programming. While I am told there is no news to share regarding any elimination of these community programs, I certainly recognize their enormous value and do not want to see them lost. I would urge IUP administration and faculty to do what they can to allow the continuation of these programs that add such value to our university, its students, and the overall community.
“However, I do bear in mind, and ask you to, as well, that in any business model, when demand for a product or service decreases, some changes must occur to achieve balance. While that is very much an oversimplification, the fact is undeniable that costs at IUP and other PASSHE schools must be reduced. These possible faculty reductions are not limited to the arts, humanities and social sciences – they will be seen in every college at IUP. I know the administration has not taken these decisions lightly. Difficult actions and changes must occur to maintain the overall health of the state system and IUP. I have been in regular communication with President Driscoll hoping to mitigate the impacts of these decisions as much as possible and will continue to coordinate with officials from IUP and PASSHE to achieve that goal.
“Like all of you, I wish there were a better way to solve this critical challenge without any losses. It is my hope that IUP is working toward the goal of striking the right balance between providing the best possible service to our students and community in a manner that proves to be economically sustainable moving forward. I ask you to be positive and show your support of our fellow community members, IUP employees and administration as we face these changes and work toward that balance together.”
Representative Jim Struzzi
62nd Legislative District
Pennsylvania House of Representatives
Media Contact: Kevin DiGuiseppe