You are currently viewing My comments from the Penn State Board of Trustees Meeting, July 21, 2023

My comments from the Penn State Board of Trustees Meeting, July 21, 2023

  • Post last modified:July 27, 2023

In-State tuition freeze for Commonwealth Campuses but a 4%-12% increase for University Park.

The Penn State Board of Trustees met Friday, July 21st at the Behrend Campus of Penn State University. The meeting included three action items. To read the full published agenda click here.

As a service to alumni and the public who were unable to access the live broadcast of the meeting, the following is an excerpt of the comments I prepared and the vote results for each agenda item.

When the video of the meeting is released I will post a link to it here on my website, https://barryfenchak.com. I encourage you to watch it in its entirety.

There were 32 out of 36 voting trustees in attendance, either in person or online. Those not in attendance were recently-elected Alumni Trustee Ali Krieger, Pennsylvania Department of Education Secretary Khalid N Mumin, Governor appointee Terry Pegula, and Agricultural Trustee Randall Black.

Action Items:

  1. Proposed Sale of Navy Yard Properties

Penn State currently owns two properties in the Philadelphia area. This proposal recommends selling those properties to the IBEW (International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers labor union) and to the Electrical Workers Joint Apprenticeship and Training Trust Fund, for a total of approximately $18.5 Million.

I had no comments and voted YES.

Vote – Yea: 32 Nay: 0

  1. Consideration of Proposed Operating Budget for Fiscal Years Beginning July 1, 2023 and July 1 2024, with Corresponding Tuition and Fees, and Room and Board Charges for each fiscal year.

• The proposal included increasing University Park room and board rates by 3.5% for each of the next two years. Each Commonwealth Campus has multiple room and board options.

• Each Commonwealth Campus and college may have slight variations in tuition rates. Rates are higher at all campuses for upperclassmen, regardless of college. Full details on new tuition rates can be accessed here: Penn State Tuition and Fees Schedules

• In addition to the tuition increases outlined below, a new surcharge of approximately $1,000 per credit hour (in state) to $1,800 per credit hour (out of state) will now be assessed for students taking over 19 credits per semester.

A) Commonwealth Campuses (35% of total enrollment):

  • In State Students: 0% increase for the next two years

  • Out of State Students: 2.0% increase over the next two years

B) University Park campus (65% of total enrollment):

  • In State students: Increases ranging from 4% to 12%

  • Out of State students: Increases ranging from 8% to 15%

My comments:

What more can we do to balance the budget without raising tuition, now and in the future? That is not an easy question. But until we have thoroughly explored all options, we shouldn’t be raising tuition and I do not believe we have done that.

I believe there are untapped opportunities to control costs and enhance other revenues to avoid these annual tuition increases. It may not be an easy task, but university administration isn’t supposed to be easy. But it is, in my opinion, one of our most important duties as a Board.

For those reasons, I voted NO.

Vote – Yea: 26 Nay: 5 Abstain: 1

I was joined in my NO vote by Alumni-elected trustees Ted Brown, Jay Paterno, Anthony Lubrano, and Alvin DeLevie.

Alumni-elected trustees Brandon Short, Steve Wagman, and Christa Hasenkopf voted for the proposal.

Alumni-elected trustee Ali Krieger was not in attendance at the Board meetings.

Cynthia Dunn, an ex-officio member of the Board as the State Secretary of the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, abstained. All other trustees in attendance voted Aye.

  1. Approval of the 2023-2024 Goals and Objectives for Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi.

My comments:

These goals and objectives are a list of aspirational tasks and goals developed by President Bendapudi without consultation or involvement of the Board of Trustees*. In a public document,  A Transformational Penn State Experience, there are no metrics to measure success or failure, no accountability, and no honest assessment of our current situation. What are the expectations? How do we measure the impact of this work? At what points are achievements measured and evaluated?

Establishing goals and standards is a critical duty of a university Board (working in consultation with the administration). It is the Board’s job to take the lead in defining clear, measurable, mission-critical goals and objectives for the University. The President’s job is to lead the administration in developing and carrying out the requisite tasks to accomplish those goals.

Over the last decade, the Penn State Board of Trustees has failed to provide a framework for the administration. The results have been predictable and devastating. Penn State has declined in fundamental ways: Attracting and Enrolling Preferred Students (we currently rank 14th out of our 14 Big Ten peers), Affordability (we’re 13th out of 13), and Successful Outcomes (we ’re 13th out of 14). These metrics, and many others, must be improved.

At this point it is mandatory we take stock of where we are, reach agreement on where we need to be, and hold ourselves accountable for real, achievable improvement.

For those reasons, I voted NO.

Vote – Yea: 31 Nay: 1 (Fenchak)

* The document generated by the Administration stating 2023-2024 goals and objectives for Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi and approved at the public meeting has been labeled a privileged document and is not available to the public.

As a member of the Penn State Board of Trustees, I will from time to time be made aware of certain confidential information.  I will also engage with Trustees and administrators in private, off-the-record conversations, with the expectation of privacy on both parties. I take these expectations seriously, as they are required in order to catalyze important discussions.
As a fiduciary, it is also important that I engage in conversations with all stakeholders of the University. Stakeholders like you.  Discussions will involve publicly available information and issues before the Board, as well as my personal thoughts, concerns, and ideas. I also will continue to solicit your thoughts, concerns, and ideas, and plan to engage in meaningful conversations with you on those topics. I hope that you will continue to share your concerns and ideas with me.

You can contact me at barry@barryfenchak.com

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