Governor Tom Corbett created a traveling advisory commission on postsecondary education through an executive order as a way to get more insight from Pennsylvanians on the educational practices in the state. The group met in downtown Pittsburgh Thursday to hear questions, concerns and suggestions from local university presidents, educational board members, students and community members.
Rob Wonderling, Chair of the Commission said the listening process is only in its early stages.
"We really wanted to get out and about in Pennsylvania," Wonderling said. "That's why we're in the Pittsburgh area today listening to citizens, employers, other higher education participants, and what they think the future of higher education should be for the commonwealth of Pennsylvania," Wonderling said.
The session did not focus on Corbett's budget proposal to cut funding by 20% to 30% for state-owned and state-related universities.
Overall, Wonderling said the focus is to "ensure greater accessibility, affordability, and employability" through a "user-based" approach.
Guest speakers had a chance to voice their concerns to the Commission and its narrowly focused subcommittees like workforce needs and collaboration workgroups. One of the guest speakers, Chris Allison, serves on the Board of Trustees at Allegheny College and is now retired from teaching, but has been an educator at both Grove City and Allegheny Colleges. He said one of his main concerns was how American students compared to international students.
"The foreign students that speak multiple languages, that have very aggressive academic preparation — not that the U.S. students don't — but there could be more of them," Allison said.
Others thought schools should be more compassionate, and incorporate methods of assisting students with problems at home as well as issues with their educations. Appropriations, curriculum, research institutions, and technical schooling was also discussed, as well as other issues surrounding the state's high educational system.
The Committee member's deadline for a collaborative set of opinions from the state's citizens to be reported to the Governor is November 15th, but Wonderling said they will be early.