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February 9, 2012

Corbett sets up higher ed panel

In his Feb. 7 budget message, Gov. Tom Corbett announced the formation of a panel to study how to make higher education accessible and affordable to students and taxpayers.

“We need to open the discussion about how best to finance higher education in this state. We need to have a thorough, public and candid conversation about how best to deal with the spiraling costs and our own obligations,” Corbett said.

Former state senator Rob Wonderling will lead the 30-member Higher Education Advisory Panel, which includes Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg and the presidents of the other state-related universities as well as business leaders and representatives from public and private institutions and education-related organizations.

The panel will identify key issues and review current policies, procedures, regulations and legislation that affect postsecondary education in Pennsylvania. It also will evaluate trends in education, including the role of technology and how higher education can increase collaboration with the private sector and government.

Corbett asked the panel to submit its findings to him by Nov. 15.

In a Feb. 7 University Update, Nordenberg expressed optimism about the commission’s potential.

“Both the governor and the secretary of education have personally committed to me that there will be no attempt to advance preconceived policy results through this process,” Nordenberg stated. “And in a fair and open process, the unique contributions tied to the work done by public research universities should provide a strong case for enhanced, not reduced, support.”

Nordenberg stated, “One can never predict how a group process ultimately will unfold, and it certainly would have been far better if the commission announced by the governor had been at work before we were targeted for such deep and disproportionate cuts to our state funding. Still, if the commission lives up to its potential, it could shape the face of public higher education in Pennsylvania for years to come.  And if returns on investment are fairly assessed, then Pitt and other public research universities should occupy an even more prominent position as we move further into the new century.”

Additional information on the panel, including a full list of members, is detailed in a Feb. 7 release posted in the “for the media” section at

—Kimberly K. Barlow

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