There is no doubt that the status of our state universities is on shaky ground. Enrollment is plummeting with some universities in danger of closing their doors altogether. There is great debate as to why this is happening.
As the parent of a recent Indiana University of Pennsylvania graduate and a multi-degree graduate of the same school myself, I had the opportunity to observe the school over a period of time and made some disturbing observations
Although all schools like to keep current with the times and appear fresh to prospective students, IUP seems to be at a fever pitch to cram as many new buildings onto its campus as possible. Once a beautiful, spacious campus, it now reminds me of a crowded industrial park. I'm sure that all the educational buildings are "state of the art" and funded directly by a whopping state budget.
I found the new dormitories to be for want of a better word, shocking. For a sliding fee, students could room in spacious suites with all the frills of an expensive hotel. They even had heated steps entering the buildings. What was wrong with the good old broom and salt technique?
By far, the most troublesome trend is in the classroom. A high proportion of the teaching positions are being staffed by adjunct professors. Adjuncts are hired with very short, relatively inexpensive contracts, and when it expires they are not hired as permanent positions, regardless of the fact that they were stellar in their job. Another cheap hire replaces them the next semester. A great way to save money. The universities are unwilling to pay for consistency and the experience of a developed or promising professor. Kind of what the Pirates do with their players ... year after year.
I visited the building that I knew extremely well where I had taken most of my major classes. It is still a relatively new, and current building, but I was shocked to see its decline.The grounds were worn and neglected, with a substantial accumulation of cigarette butts heaped around. Inside, lots of fingerprinted glass, worn surfaces that needed painting, and numerous corners that needed another round of dust mop. When I emailed the department chair, he got back to me that there was a cutback in maintenance staff. Maybe they'll just tear the building down and build a nice new shiny one that will clean itself.
So what does all this mean? It means that funds are being shockingly misdirected and mismanaged. It's all about glitz and not about substance. It's no wonder that student costs are skyrocketing to cover these blunders! The money needs to be put where it belongs in – to the classroom and into the maintenance of a quality overall institutional environment. Wise up Pennsylvania, or your students will go elsewhere, as maybe they already are.