Secretary of Education Eugene Hickock has announced formal approval of the final element of the University's plan to restructure its Commonwealth Educational System campuses. Under the approval, information science and technology degrees will be implemented at Penn State Beaver and Penn State McKeesport in the fall of 1999. The same degree will be implemented at Penn State New Kensington in 2000. Up to five additional degrees could be phased in at the campuses over the next decade.
After approving four-year degree status last year for the other 14 campuses that had been part of the CES, the Department of Education had withheld approval for the Pittsburgh-area campuses out of concerns related to area demographics and a desire to ensure that there was no unnecessary duplication of degrees in the area. Penn State appealed that decision, and the newly approved plan now reflects modifications that addressed the Department of Education's original concerns.
"The information science and technology degree is vital to building the workforce that Pennsylvania needs in the coming century," said President Graham B. Spanier. "We are grateful that Secretary Hickock has recognized this need. These degrees are particularly important in the western region of the state, and will play a critical role in the economic revitalization of these areas. Each of the communities where we have a campus in the Pittsburgh area had strongly supported these degrees and this plan."
Joseph Strasser, dean of the Commonwealth College, to which the three campuses belong, said that the approval will now allow the campuses to more effectively plan their futures.
"The plan also will allow a few additional degrees at each campus over the next decade, and we can now begin to look at what additional offerings would be best for these communities," Strasser added.
Under the plan approved by the Department of Education, Penn State agreed that no other baccalaureate programs other than information science and technology would be launched before 2001-2002. Penn State agreed to launch no more than two additional baccalaureate degrees in the next five years, and no more than three additional degrees at each campus in years six through 10 of the agreement.
As part of the plan, Penn State also agreed to freeze enrollment of new baccalaureate freshmen in existing programs at all three campuses at the 1995-1996 level, until the 2001-2002 academic year. In other words, any growth in undergraduate enrollments above 1995-1996 limits may only occur in associate degree programs or in the new information science and technology baccalaureate degree programs.
Following the 10-year limitation of five degrees plus the information science and technology degree, it was agreed that no new baccalaureate programs would be launched unless supported by market needs. Those needs will be based on stated employer needs, employment trends, demographic information, and student interests and preferences.
"While the six degrees that can be offered at these campuses over the next decade is a minimal number, it will still allow us to assist with economic and human development in the area, and particularly allow many older, place-bound students the opportunity to complete their degrees," said Spanier. "Many students from these areas will still need to transfer to University Park, but we think this proposal answers the needs of the area while addressing the concerns that the Department of Education had earlier raised. We think it's a good compromise that is in the best long-term interests of the region and the state."
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