HARRISBURG - The consolidation plan adopted last week by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Board of Governors last week left questions about the future of the Venango Campus of Clarion University.
The board voted unanimously to combine six of the PASSHE schools into two entities. The plan integrated Clarion, Edinboro and California universities in Western Pennsylvania into a single entity and Bloomsburg, Mansfield and Lock Haven universities in the northeastern part of the state into one school.
The process for integrating state system universities is defined by law in Act 50. The act did not grant the power to close campuses.
"I want to be sure that people in our area know that Act 50, which allows (integration) does not allow for the closing of any of the 14 state system schools," said Rep. Donna Oberlander (R-63). "My understanding is that Clarion University includes Venango campus."
Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-21) isn't quite so sure.
"We have been very concerned about the future of the Venango Campus for the past several years," he said. "It seems that as the main campus as had issues things were moved from Venango Campus to the main campus. That is a concern. I have not heard anything about that campus in this consolidation plan. I don't know what the future is."
The NCAA has not ruled on the plan's proposal for the universities to keep their sports teams separate.
"All of the universities believe in their sports teams. We know it is one the best recruiting tools and the best retention tool," said Oberlander. "It is my understanding they (NCAA) were looking at what the (PASSHE) board of governors would do and then they will make a decision. I am hopeful that they will make the right decision. It is critical."
The plan projected some job losses.
"Clarion, over the past six years, has really looked at its replacement rate," said Oberlander. "They have right-sized through attrition and I don't anticipate big job losses at Clarion University."
Oberlander and Hutchinson agree that some changes had to be made.
"I feel that there are some major challenges for Clarion University. I don't know that this plan is perfect but the drop in the number of students means changes have to be made," said Hutchinson.
"It is important that we look at the positives for our students and how we, as a group, can become stronger through this integration," said Oberlander. "I looking forward to seeing those opportunities and for us to come together and work as hard as we can have Clarion University here for the next 150 years."
Hutchinson added, I can't say that I would have made those changes but, in the end, we had to do something. I am hoping for the very best for the future of Clarion."