In 2018, fall enrollment at the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education fell below 100,000 for the first time since 2001, driven by steep declines of students from families whose annual incomes are below $110,000. Last fall, enrollment fell again, completing a drop of 20% since 2010.
On Tuesday, with his new budget proposal, Wolf requested a new, $200 million-a-year scholarship program for low- and middle-income state-system students who stay in-state after they graduate.
It serves several purposes: combating growing student debt; attracting more students to state system schools; and keeping more college grads in a state that desperately needs them.
It could, in theory, wipe out college debt or reduce it for more than 25,000 state system graduates, administration officials said.
Lawmakers are not deaf to the issue. They approved legislation last summer creating a commission to study higher education funding and is required to produce a report with recommendations by July 1.
The system’s chancellor, Dan Greenstein, is in the midst of overhauling the system, working to share administrative resources between universities, avoid duplication in offerings and provide courses more neatly aligned to demand.
Wolf’s scholarship program, he said, targets a critical demographic at a critical time when the state needs to increase the number of adults with higher education degrees from 47% to 60% to meet the current and future demands of employers.
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