July 20, 2007
I held my second meeting today with two high-ranking officials of the State System of Higher Education about my idea to have a state university in Philadelphia. This is important because state university tuition is only half the tuition of Temple University, and the trend is that it will be even a lower percentage of Temple University's tuition in the future.One of the officials strongly agreed with me that a state university in Philadelphia could dramatically expand college attendance among low and moderate income students here. He promised me that he would produce a plan to create a state university in Philadelphia, and also one to bring course offerings from existing state universities to Philadelphia. I believe the need for affordable college education is so great here that both should be done. I would additionally favor making Community College of Philadelphia a four year institution, but that is a separate issue with separate bureaucratic structures.The high-ranking state official told of a recent study in Pittsburgh which found that the higher and higher rate of college attendance had left about three thousand students there without a reasonable chance of going to college there; there is some sentiment that Pittsburgh needs a state university as well.There is no question that the three state related colleges--Temple, Penn State, and the University of Pittsburgh--are "better" than the state universities in terms of selectivity of admissions, variety of course offerings, books in libraries, endowments, value of buildings, etc. But all the signs of academic excellence have the price of raising total costs, and thus making the education unaccessible to people who cannot afford the tuition or the risk of taking out loans.
Where should a new state university in Philadelphia be located, both in terms of a neighborhood and specific buildings that may be available? Ideally there would be someone willing to donate or sell at a low price land and buildings with empty space nearby that could be used.My gut sense is that the area betweeen Community College of Philadelphia and Temple University would be a good place to start looking. There is a lot of vacant space there, and a new state university there would tend to spur even more residential development than is planned at the current time. Further, the closeness to Philadelphia's two largest undergraduate institutions would enable a synergy that would make it easy to widen options for recruiting faculty members, enabling Temple graduate students to teach, and creating a greater student presence for extracurricular activities.I would welcome other ideas, either implementing my gut sense or suggesting other alternatives.What courses should it offer? The high-ranking state education official said business, education, and communication courses were the most popular. What do you think should be added?How can a campaign be developed to get the legislature to support expanded state university presence in Philadelphia? Obviously, it will require a lot of organization of both Philadelphians and others. I would welcome nominations of people and organizations to be involved.Would you be interested in helping get this off the ground? If so, respond here or send me a private message.The sad fact is that all or virtually all of the state colleges were added to state control after they failed as private institutions. In retrospect, the state should have tried to take over Philadelphia's campuses of Antioch University and Spring Garden College when they failed, but no such movement occurred.We cannot undo the past, but we can take bold strides ahead to create a better future.
May 24, 2007
College is not for everybody, but it should be for many more people in Philadelphia than it is. Philadelphia needs more people in the national job market, both to gain the ability to go elsewhere if that is in their individual best interest, and for the city as a whole to gain the ability to attract many more employers here in the interest of all residents.There are a lot of wonderful people attending college in Philadelphia who come from all over the state of Pennsylvania, and all over the East Coast, and--in small but growing numbers--all over the United States and the world. There is just one little segment of humanity that is an ever smaller percentage of the Philadelphia college population, and that is people who went to high school in Philadelphia.Community College of Philadelphia should not be the sole meaningful option available in Philadelphia for the vast majority of Philadelphia high school students. I am proud that it started from scratch in the 1960's, and has far more undergraduate students than the Philadelphia campuses of Penn, Temple, LaSalle, Holy Family, Philadelphia University and various other places combined--but it is not the total answer for Philadelphia's problems. There is absolutely no reason why Philadelphia cannot have both a state university and a community college just like Delaware County does. Philadelphia is an important part of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, and it is paradoxically both the county with the greatest financial needs and the county with a great amount of business and financial activity.Tony Payton's plan--which I would love to support--for free tuition for many students starts out with an estimated price tag of $350 million a year state wide. Expanding Pennsylvania's state university system would cost a small fraction of that.And no, in this cynical age, I have no contributors, friends, relatives, or associates looking to unload land for a state university. Nor do I know of any union pushing for this project at this time.What I have is a very strong desire to create new opportunities for hard pressed Philadelphia families similar to the opportunities that already exist in many of the rural areas of the state. There is a similarity between the economic problems of rural Pennsylvania and the economic problems of Philadelphia, but there is one distinction: our economic problems are far more deeply rooted and far more difficult to solve.If we want a city with greater potential than now exists, we need a city with more to offer than now exists. A state university is one such addition that Philadelphia urgently needs.
June 20, 2007
We should try to minimize the opportunity costs of getting a college education. Opportunity costs deal with foregone income as a result of pursuing a college education.A way to minimize opportunity costs is to maximize opportunities for working adults to attend college during the evening. When my mother earned her undergraduate degree in economics from George Washington University, evening classes were far less common that they were when I earned my law and MBA degrees that way.But, even today, with evening education offerings--and Internet college credit offerings--more numerous than ever before, there are still gaps in opportunities in various programs. Identifying these gaps and trying to fill them will open up the doors of college and graduate school to many--if they can afford the options offered.
July 7, 2006
I certainly favor greater state subsidy of scholarships and aid to state related schools (Temple, Penn State, and University of Pittsburgh), all 14 schools affiliated the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, all Pennsylvania community colleges.Further, I believe we need to open up a state school in Philadelphia (the closest popular option is West Chester State University, which is also the hardest SSHE school to get into precisely because of its popularity), and to establish 4 year community colleges around the state, as some other states have done.Why have we not done that so far? It costs money. Pennsylvania's $26 billion budget is considerably less than New Jersey's $31 billion dollar budget, even though New Jersey is a much smaller (and less fiscally responsible) state. How can we get Pennsylvania's commitment for higher education up where it should be? Incrementally, the way we do everything else. We need concerned citizens to speak out on the extremely college costs in Pennsylvania in order to create a climate of opinion where constructive change is possible over the long run.
July 6, 2006
A couple of months ago, I attended a fascinating lecture at USP on the implications to values of privacy and individual rights of the latest pharmaceutical research, which will be increasingly developing drugs based on individual personal characteristics, including race, sex, age, etc.I was impressed that USP was aware of the tensions that can exist between scientific research and public values, and was inviting the public to be informed as well as the students of science.While Penn is a giant school with strengths across the board, there certainly is plenty of room in the East Coast education market for a school which can build on its pharmaceutical tradition and offer quality education in the sciences. Its nearness to Penn and Drexel creates a lot of opportunities for synergy in research, teaching, and student interaction.As one who has graduate degrees from two private institutions that are nowhere near being in Penn's league (Penn was my undergraduate college; I got a law degree from Widener and an MBA from Lebanon Valley College), I found that a smaller institution can give a student advantages in greater focus, and more intense interaction with a smaller group of people. A smaller institution can also take a more personal interest in its students.I look forward to continued progress by USP.
June 28, 2006