UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Penn State President Eric Barron spoke to the Board of Trustees about two important topics today (Feb. 24) — access and affordability for students, and athletics success that leads to greater Penn State success.
Barron discussed the Pathway to Success Summer Start (PaSSS) program. In 2015, 135 students on seven Commonwealth Campuses enrolled in the PaSSS program, a program that provides the opportunity for students to earn scholarships while taking classes, working and developing a support network.
The inaugural group is outpacing non-PaSSS students in retention, GPA and credits earned. One year after enrolling, almost 84 percent of PaSSS students were still at Penn State; non-PaSSS students had a nearly 78 percent retention rate for the same time period. In that same year, PaSSS students had an average GPA of 2.77 compared to the 2.70 GPA for non-PaSSS students. The PaSSS students also had earned an average of nearly 10 more credits than non-PaSSS students.
Barron said these additional courses and success will help more students graduate on time.
“If we can translate these numbers for a larger population, we’re going to have a huge impact on student debt. If students end up even a semester ahead, then we have saved them nine grand,” he said.
The goal for summer 2017 is to enroll 375 first-year students into the PaSSS program and the long-term goal is to reach 1,000 students enrolled in the program.
The president also talked about how beyond the oversight it has for 800 student-athletes and 31 varsity sports, Intercollegiate Athletics also will make an even greater impact on the rest of the University, through the allocation of funds to various University-wide projects and programs.
The new Big Ten Media Rights Contract that is still under negotiation will go into effect later this year and $4 million of the revenue from that pending contract will be designated to support Penn State initiatives, including $450,000 for Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS). More than 3,900 students sought assistance from CAPS in 2015-16, an increase of 50 percent over the previous decade, and an infusion of funds will be used to further assist students dealing with mental health issues.
The new funding for CAPS comes on the heels of the Class of 2016 gift, which established an endowment to support CAPS, and a $200,000 commitment by the Penn State Alumni Association to match the 2016 class gift. The Big Ten media money is part of a larger $705,000 in new University funds announced for CAPS.
In addition to the CAPS funding, Barron said the Penn State Blue Band is slated to receive $250,000 from the Big Ten contract, with the opportunity to increase funding to $500,000, to enable the band to perform more frequently. The 2016-2017 season is the 117th year of the Blue Band's proud, tradition-filled history. The current band numbers 320 members which includes: 270 instrumentalists, 32 silks, 14 Touch of Blue (majorettes), a feature twirler, and a drum major, and members come from virtually all curricula and colleges.
Barron also announced that $2 million annually from Intercollegiate Athletics’ portion of the Big Ten Media Rights Contract will go toward matching financial gifts for the “Arts and Arboretum” complex being considered for further development on the University Park campus. Barron discussed the University Park campus as a cultural destination under this idea. The “Arts and Arboretum” will be part of Penn State’s upcoming fundraising campaign, Greater Penn State, which emphasizes a number of key themes soon to be released.
Other areas expected to receive revenue in future years include:
- Up to $500,000 per year to match gifts supporting innovative projects.
- Up to $500,000 per year to match gifts supporting students through the Open Doors or Transformative Experiences campaign themes.
Barron said the success of Intercollegiate Athletics and its funding from the Big Ten contract is creating a powerful impact at Penn State.