February 12, 1998......Volume 27, Issue 20

News . . . . Arts . . . . Calendars . . . . Letters . . . . Links . . . . Deadlines . . . . Archive

Search the contents of the Intercom archives and
news releases issued by the Department of Public Information.

Sign of spring
University's proposed budget
University's budget on the Web
Commonwealth College
Actor a bridge for students
Subscription costs examined
Preparing the tools
Another bowl competition 
Faculty/Staff Alerts
Higher education must adapt
Unique new ID card unveiled
Penn State news bureau

Sign of spring

Coordinators of flower sales for the Penn State Horticulture Club Abby Swoyer, left, Jason Jandrew and Amanda Carson get ready for a busy week. The club will sell flowers today and Friday, Feb. 13, in the basement of the Hetzel Union Building on the University Park campus and Saturday, Feb. 14, at the Penn State Bookstore next to the HUB.
Photo: Greg Grieco

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University looking for
more from proposed budget

By Lisa M. Rosellini
Public Information

Under the governor's proposed 1998-99 budget plan unveiled Feb. 3, Penn State would receive a 3.25 percent increase, an amount University President Graham B. Spanier calls the governor's "most generous" to date, but still only a "stay-even" approach that merely covers inflation.

"This increase, if approved by the Legislature, would allow us to continue our programs at the current level, provide a modest salary increase for employees and maintain current commitments," Spanier said. "Penn State has the opportunity to greatly enhance the quality of education research and service for Pennsylvania, but additional funding will be needed to realize our goals."

Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge last week revealed a $17.8 billion spending plan that not only includes a 3.25 percent increase in funding for the 14 schools within the State System of Higher Education (SSHE), state-related institutions (like Penn State) and community colleges, but also reduces taxes for many businesses and low-income taxpayers and has no significant tax increases.

The governor's fiscal blueprint also includes increased funding for grants to needy college students through the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency in the amount of $17.5 million.

In its budget request, Penn State sought a $24.6 million increase, or 8.4 percent, over the 1997-98 appropriation of $289.7 million. This year's $314.3 million request reflects increases to cover basic operating costs and to improve competitiveness. Part of the $314.3 million will go toward funding 75 new faculty positions; upgrading technology and library services; a workforce development initiative; deferred maintenance; and funding life sciences and other academic programs.

"We recognize that higher education is only one component of the state's budget and there are certainly compelling, competing needs," Spanier said. "But an additional investment in Penn State will definitely have great benefits for Pennsylvania residents."

Last fall, in the early stages of the state's budget projections, the University joined other public schools in the state to present a four-year funding plan for all of Pennsylvania public higher education, stressing its importance to the vitality and progress of the state. More recently, 11 leaders from the SSHE visited the Capitol to lobby for more funding. Within Pennsylvania, Penn State receives a lower educational and general appropriation per student than any other public college or university, while its class size and student/faculty ratio are the largest of all public universities in the Commonwealth.

Spanier is in Harrisburg this week, talking to legislative leaders about the need for increased funding. On Feb. 23, the president will again travel to the state capital to testify and answer questions from state senators about Penn State's appropriation request. A third trip to Harrisburg on March 3 will again allow Spanier the opportunity to answer similar questions from members of the House of Representatives.

"We are hopeful that in the coming months as the Legislature and governor work through budget negotiations, funding for our proposed initiatives will be given a higher priority," Spanier said. The president said the money is needed to not only cover the new initiatives, but to also make up for years of underfunding from the state. Even with the 8.4 percent increase the University is seeking, Spanier has indicated a tuition increase of about 3.2 percent is in the offing

"We have been extremely responsible fiscally," Spanier said. "These increases are not only necessary, but reasonable particularly in light of our efforts over the years to reduce costs."

For years, Penn State has been in involved in an aggressive effort to pare down its expenses and create more effective and efficient ways of operating. The University has reallocated more than $72 million since 1992, moving funds from administrative and support activities to the academic side to fund critical needs. Further budget reallocations are included in the University's 1998-99 budget plan and this will be the seventh consecutive year that an internal budget reallocation process has been in effect.

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University's budget is
available on the Web

For the second year in a row, Penn State's current budget is on the Web. To access the complete budget -- more than 400 pages -- go to the University's home page at http://www.psu.edu/ or to the University Relations site at http://www.psu.edu/ur. From there, hot links will lead to the budget.

Those wanting to review the document will need a free software package called Adobe Acrobat Reader, which can be downloaded from the University Relations Web page.

From the online budget document, viewers can find detailed information about the budget, from a pie chart on income sources to spending on specific programs.

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Becoming a reality

Commonwealth College
is growing together

Lisa M. Rosellini
Public Information

Minimal and acceptable are words Joseph Strasser won't use. To Strasser, new dean of the Commonwealth College, those two words have no place at Penn State.

Instead, Strasser has set a goal of working together to be a leader in the University system -- no small order considering his college spans 12 locations across the state and only recently came into being through a massive reorganization of Penn State's campus system.

Just one year ago, the University announced an overhaul of its Commonwealth Educational System -- a system that had been in place for more than four decades but needed to find additional ways to answer the needs of Pennsylvania residents. Out of that system makeover, which took more than 18 months to devise, came Strasser's college, which is made up of five Penn State campuses in western Pennsylvania (Shenango, Beaver, New Kensington, McKeesport and Fayette); one in the central part of the state (DuBois); Three in the south (Delaware County, Mont Alto and York); and three in the northeast (Worthington Scranton, Wilkes-Barre and Hazleton). The Commonwealth College officially began operating on July 1, 1997, and is Penn State's largest college.

"I have certain aspirations for this college and I know they can be achieved," said Strasser, who was named dean on Nov. 17. "I see the niche of the Commonwealth College as being able to provide student-centered, personalized education. Answering the educational needs of Pennsylvanians is the mission of every Penn State location and the Commonwealth College is particularly well-suited to respond."

Strasser knows this lesson first-hand. He cut his teeth as a campus executive officer from 1995 to 1997 at Penn State DuBois.

"At DuBois, I saw students who were making great sacrifices to get an education," he said. "I saw families that mortgaged their homes for education. That certainly made a deep impression on me. I feel tremendous, personal responsibility to the students of these 12 campuses to do everything that I can to provide them with the best education possible."

The new dean, who over the last two months has traveled the state to visit each of the 12 campuses, heard the same from those communities. In addition to carefully listening to CEOs, faculty, staff and students during those sojourns, Strasser also had a few messages he wanted to convey. The basic ideas of teamwork, pride and putting the past behind went a long way toward introducing the 1,300 employees of the Commonwealth College -- about 500 of them faculty -- to their new dean.

"His visits definitely sent a signal," said Catherine Gannon, CEO of Penn State New Kensington. "His visit not only instilled an enormous amount of confidence, it also established a comfort level for this new venture we have all embarked on. The Commonwealth College is in its infancy and he is working at pulling us all more closely toward being one entity. One of the missions of this college will be to find ways to draw us together. This collegiate structure is much more conducive to collaboration and sharing resources."

Gannon said although some organizational aspects about the Commonwealth College are still unclear -- like who will pick up tasks previously done by other units within the University, such as evaluating transcripts for transfer students -- the concept of the Commonwealth College is on target. As a neighbor to well-known institutions like Carnegie Mellon, the University of Pittsburgh, Robert Morris and several community colleges, to name a few, Gannon recognizes that higher education across the state, not just within the Penn State system, must become more collaborative to meet the ever-growing demands of its constituents.

"We are not just looking at working within Penn State, but also with other institutions," she said. "For the first time campuses within the college, which really exist to respond to the communities they serve, can propose programs that will meet the needs of residents. There are so many exciting possibilities that could come from a dozen campuses collaborating in a variety of ways, from grant proposals to asynchronous learning experiences. The Commonwealth College has great potential, and that potential is very interesting to everyone."

James Gallagher, CEO at Penn State Worthington Scranton, said his campus is already experiencing the possibilities. This fall, Worthington Scranton launched its four-year degree program in business. The new program attracted 50 new students and is meeting the forecasted needs of the community.

"As we predicted, virtually all of the students are location-bound and tend to be older than traditional-age students," he said. "In terms of response, our plans are right on course. We plan to implement the four-year degree program in human development next fall."

Penn State Mont Alto has three new baccalaureate degree programs it currently offers. They include a bachelor's degree in nursing, a bachelor's degree in human development and family studies with an emphasis on gerontology, and a bachelor's degree in occupational therapy.

Strasser said, like Worthington Scranton and Mont Alto, seven other campuses can also offer degrees in business and health and human development, if community need warrants. Under an agreement with the state's secretary of education, the Commonwealth College is able to offer degrees in these two high-demand areas, but must wait two more years before instituting any other baccalaureate degree programs. The next potential degree area that appears to have great interest among the public is in information technology, according to Strasser.

In fact, in its strategic plan submitted to Strasser on Jan. 16, Penn State Wilkes-Barre requested approval to deliver a four-year information technology degree at that location. The four-year program would complement an already existing two-year degree program in telecommunications, which CEO Mary Hines said she hopes will expand to a four-year program in the near future.

"I like the idea that we can listen to our constituents locally and respond to what they need. That's a great goal of the Commonwealth College," Hines said. "There is excitement over the possibilities, but it could take us some time to actually meet the demands. We are raising expectations in our communities and we have to be able to deliver fairly rapidly."

Strasser is aware of the desire to move quickly on certain fronts, but said the Commonwealth College is devoting its energies to figuring out "where we are, what we want to be and how we are going to get there." Part of getting there involves strategic planning.

Each of the 12 campuses within the Commonwealth College turned over their strategic plans in mid-January to Strasser, who will now incorporate them into an overall planning document to present to the University Planning Council by the second week in April.

Mont Alto CEO David H. Goldenberg said his campus' strategic plan reflects a change in culture and attitude -- both necessary to make the transition to a baccalaureate degree-granting location.

"The difference is more than just a set of courses," Goldenberg said. "It's values, attitude, confidence, cultural change and growth."

Strasser stressed that since no new funding is going toward putting together the Commonwealth College, it is "extremely important that we maintain the quality of our programs and really understand our communities to determine what the needs are."

Strasser said the college's strategic plan will emphasize continuing and distance education programs to increase the funding stream. Enhancing student services is also high on Strasser's "to-do" list.

In addition to looking at potential programs, Strasser immediately began tackling one of the most urgent needs of the college -- hiring personnel. When Strasser came on board, five of the campuses were without CEOs. Since then, both Beaver and Hazleton have acquired campus leaders and Strasser said the searches for CEOs for DuBois (left vacant when Strasser became dean), Fayette and Shenango are in full swing. There are currently searches being conducted to fill 32 faculty positions, many of them tenured.

"Our strategic plan will focus on people, programs, resources and our communities," Strasser said. "Working as a team, we can be responsive to our communities, be out in front with innovative ideas and be extremely effective."

Worthington Scranton's campus executive officer agrees.

"As this college develops, I'm sure there will be more difficult issues that we'll have to face,"

Gallagher said. "This is really evolving on a daily basis, but that's exciting. It just means we have to roll up our sleeves and work a little harder and a little longer."

Who's running the
Commonwealth College?

Key staff members

* Dean

Joseph C. Strasser (jcs16@psu.edu)

Principal academic leader and chief executive officer of the college. Responsible for planning, budgeting, implementation, fund raising and the quality of teaching and research in the college.

* Associate Dean for Faculty

John Madden, acting (m05@psu.edu)

Responsible for faculty affairs -- promotion and tenure, research grants, faculty development, annual reviews.

* Associate Dean for Academic Programs

Sophia Wisniewska (stw1@psu.edu)

Responsible for academic program development for degree and non-degree offerings, market research and environmental scanning, and accreditation reviews.

* Associate Dean for Students and
Academic Support

Linda Higginson (lxh1@psu.edu)

Responsible for student and academic support services.

* Associate Dean for Administration

Kenneth Varcoe (kev1@psu.edu)

Responsible for administrative review coordination, demographic information, advisory board liaison, CEO searches, enrollment management, strategic planning and other special staff assignments.

* Director of Budget and Finance

Rachel Smith (rem4@psu.edu)

Responsible for the budget and financial activities of the College.

* Director of Human Resources

Rachel Miller (mrm2@psu.edu)

* Director of Development

Lynn Johnson (lmj4@psu.edu)

* Administrative Fellow

Gail Gilchrest (gxg1@psu.edu)

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