|Type||Public University System|
|Established||July 1, 1983|
|Students||95,802 students (2019)|
111,000 students (2014)119,513 students (2010)
|Affiliations||NCAA Division II – PSAC|
Keystone Library Network
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is a state agency of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania that oversees 14 state-owned colleges and universities. Collectively, it is the largest provider of higher education in the commonwealth. It is the 43rd largest university system in the world. The system comprises 14 state-owned schools, the largest school being West Chester University. All of the schools are NCAA Division II members in most sports by virtue of being members of the Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference. Several schools also participate in NCAA Division I sports including wrestling and field hockey.
The State System should not be confused with Pennsylvania's other state-funded university system, the Commonwealth System of Higher Education that includes the land grant university (Pennsylvania State University), its related campuses; and three historically private universities (Temple University, Lincoln University, and University of Pittsburgh). While Commonwealth System members are separate legal entities with their own charters, boards, and endowments, the State System is a state agency whose board is appointed by the governor.
The Normal School Act of 1857 was passed on the last day of session on May 20, 1857. Its passage created 12 normal school districts in the state in which to establish private corporations answerable to the State Superintendent of Common Schools. Afterward, the School Code of 1911 mandated that the Commonwealth purchase all the normal schools. The normal schools evolved from state normal schools, to state teacher's colleges, to state colleges. Act 188, which was signed into law on November 12, 1982, and came into effect on July 1, 1983, established the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, and converted those state colleges into universities.
A plan to merge six of the current PASSHE institutions into two multi-campus universities is ongoing as of July 2021. Under the plan, two sets of three schools would merge into single institutions effective July 1, 2022—Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield in the state's northeast, and California, Clarion, and Edinboro in western Pennsylvania. Each three-school group will have a new name, but the plan calls for all institutions involved in these mergers to retain their current campus identities and athletic programs. The PASSHE board of governors approved the plan on April 28, 2021, which opened a 60-day public comment period. The NCAA would have to approve the continued separation of the athletic programs at the merged institutions. The board voted unanimously to approve the merger on July 14, but a system press release stated that "the efforts to complete the two integrations will take years."
The system is a composition of the following 14 universities in Pennsylvania:
As established by the founding legislation, Act 188 of 1982, the primary mission of the State System of Higher Education "is the provision of instruction for undergraduate and graduate students to and beyond the Master's degree in the liberal arts and sciences, and in the applied fields, including the teaching profession." Additionally, the purpose of the State System is "to provide high quality education at the lowest possible cost to students."
A 20-member Board of Governors oversees the system. Additional power is vested in the Councils of Trustees at the constituent universities.
Board of Governor's membership includes: four state legislators, three students, the Governor of the Commonwealth (or a designee), the Pennsylvania Secretary of Education (or a designee), and 11 citizens appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate.
The Board of Governors sets general policy for the State System.
Current enrollment and alumni
Almost 110,000 undergraduate and graduate, part-time and full-time, students attend State System universities. Nearly 90 percent are Pennsylvania residents and 80 percent remain in Pennsylvania after graduation. Minority enrollment is at an all-time high. A record total of 11,500 minority students—nearly 11 percent of the total student population—are taking classes at State System universities. There are more than 734,000 State System alumni, including more than 518,000 who live and work in Pennsylvania.
Facilities and employees
In total the university campuses comprise approximately 4,700 acres (19 km2). A total of 862 buildings with nearly 25 million square feet (2.3 km2) house classrooms, residences, administrative offices, and student support services. The State System employs more than 13,700 professional and support staff, most covered by collective bargaining agreements. The various libraries are connected through the cooperative Keystone Library Network.