Speaking at Pennsylvania’s Press Club’s monthly luncheon on Monday, Pennsylvania State Higher Education System Chancellor Dan Greenstein did not mince words regarding the state of higher education in Pennsylvania.
“The need is increasing. The supply is shrinking. What happens when employers are unable to provide the skilled workers they need to be successful? They are moving, ”said the Chancellor.
Greenstein, now in his fourth year as head of the state system, has abandoned his prepared remarks and delivered a direct assessment of higher education and how it connects to the state’s broader economic challenges. . His message? While about 60% of all jobs in the state require higher education, only about 50% of workers have the required training. And that gap, says Greenstein, is not narrowing – it is widening.
He said: “In order to keep the lights on in the economy, we need to produce more adults who have some form of higher education.”
To complicate matters, Greenstein said, falling tuition fees in other states are pushing more and more students out of Pennsylvania.
“There is an increase every year in the number of students seeking out-of-state options due to falling costs. And what happens to a student who attends college out of state? Are they coming back to Pennsylvania? No.”
Data from the state’s Independent Fiscal Office supports Greenstein’s claims. According to the most recent IFO Economic and Fiscal Outlook report, the state’s school-age population, aged 0-19, fell 0.5% per year from 2010 to 2020 and is expected to decline. 0.4% per year until 2030.
The IFO presented similar projections for the state’s working-age population earlier this month, predicting that the working-age cohort will decline by 0.5% in the short term and 0.3% in the near term. long term. The working-age population has already seen a decline of 0.1% per year from 2010 to 2020, according to IFO data.
“If labor market participation rates do not increase, then this trend will limit economic and income growth in the future,” IFO concluded in the November report.
The state system has embarked on an overhaul since Greenstein took control in 2018. The overhaul included a consolidation of six public universities in the western and northeastern parts of the state. Greenstein said the move was vital to ensuring PASSHE remains financially stable.
PASSHE leaders voted this fall to seek historic state funding, asking lawmakers for an allocation of $ 550 million, an increase of $ 73 million from the system’s most recent budget.
Greenstein said the shortage of skilled workers in the state, as well as the exodus of working-age Pennsylvanians to other states, is directly related to education funding levels.
Pennsylvania currently ranks 48th out of 50 states and Washington, DC for the amount of state financial support per full-time student, according to Science and Engineering Indicators. Greenstein highlighted this data in his speech on Monday and said that the direction of the state, both in terms of higher education and economic growth, will depend on political decisions at the state level.
“What becomes of this state and its ability to continue to compete at regional, national level – is a political choice. It’s a question of investment, ”he said. “It’s not a question of funding schools. It’s about ensuring our economic competitiveness – social mobility.