Walker: ‘Not worrying about closing Edinboro University,’ talks future

Category:  News
Wednesday, February 8th, 2017 at 5:00 PM

“Could closing happen? Yes. Is that danger real? Yes. Do I think it's imminent? No,” explained Edinboro University President Dr. H. Fred Walker regarding the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education’s (PASSHE) recent announcement about potentially merging or closing multiple state universities, including Edinboro.

Walker continued: “I’m honestly not worrying about closing Edinboro University, because when you look at the geographic distribution of us within the state, there’s no other state university around us. However, if we don’t present ourselves as a unified community, then the risk for that goes up significantly.” 

Walker also expressed how PASSHE’s statement about the potential closing or merging of universities caught many university officials off-guard.

“When the chancellor made that statement, while we knew there were some concerns at the state level, as well as the campus level, there was a general sense of surprise in the room. [In regard to] the mergers thing; I don’t have any more information than the rest of the faculty, because that was as much of a surprise to me as others,” said Walker.

PASSHE’s spokesperson Kenn Marshall also commented on the state system’s recent remarks about the merging and closure issue. 

“The chancellor stated emphatically that we do not know what our review will determine, nor what recommendations will result. He noted that every available option must remain on the table as part of the review; no possibility can be ruled out at the start. Is it possible that at the conclusion of our review that there will be a recommendation to merge or close one or more of our universities? Yes.”

Marshall continued: “We are not, in fact, even considering merging or closing any of the universities at this time, despite what has been reported in some news stories.”

Though closing or merging is not yet a reality for state universities, many are experiencing budget deficit and student enrollment issues.

“Since I’ve arrived here [Edinboro University] in July, we knew we had some significant issues to deal with. When we got here, the concern was that we had about a $3.7 million budget deficit and a number of academic programs that we knew were going to need revised or replaced,” said Walker.

He continued: “Over the last five years, the enrollments at Edinboro University have decreased 24 percent, [and] when we look at our financial health at Edinboro University, we’ve been drawing from the savings account for more than half a decade to keep the budget balanced.”

Currently, to combat the decrease in enrollment rates and budget deficit, Edinboro University is undergoing an academic program health analysis; with changes expected in the near future.

“We know we are going to make some changes; we are assessing it right now. Our opportunity is to wake up, adjust our academic program inventory to the things students are actually demanding, [things that] are relevant in today’s economy, and bring those programs online; and take off the programs students are not attending. That’s the upside of what we have in front of us, but it’s only going to work if everybody agrees this is what we’ve got to do, and not everyone is going to agree,” said Walker.

He continued, stating, “It’s okay to have differences of opinion; it’s not okay to start trying to whip it into a situation that’s unhealthy for everybody.”

Walker and Marshall expressed that the review process, at both the state and campus level, is to improve students’ education experience and not to delay their current academic progress.

“The most important thing students should know at this point is that the purpose of this review is to ensure the long-term future of the system and the universities. We must address the growing fiscal challenges facing the universities in order to make sure students will continue to receive high-quality education that is affordable,” said Marshall.

“We are going to make changes to this university (Edinboro). But it is this institution’s commitment, and my personal commitment, that as we go through that, there will be no student harmed, there will be no student delayed in terms of their graduations, and there will be no programs that are pulled out from underneath students. There will be a smooth transition as we go forward; that is my operational promise to the students,” said Walker.

Macala Leigey can be reached at eupnews.spectator@gmail.com. 

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