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Lock Haven University will be combined with Bloomsburg and Mansfield Universities to serve 13,391 total students. (Photo by Ruhrfisch | CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Pennsylvania state university system is planning to combine six of its 14 schools into two new institutions due to decreasing enrollment and increasing student costs. 

On Wednesday, the Board of Governors of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education unanimously voted to continue on with the plan, even as the faculty union warns that more than 300 members might lose their jobs by next year, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

The integration plan, overseen by Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education Chancellor Daniel Greenstein, involves combining Bloomsburg, Lock Haven, and Mansfield Universities into one university serving 13,391 total students, The Inquirer reported. California, Clarion, and Edinboro Universities will be made into another university with 15,669 students.

The bill first allowing the system to move forward with the consolidation plan that was passed on July 16 temporarily gave the system’s governing board the power to “create, expand, consolidate, transfer or affiliate an institution or college,” but does not permit the university system to close schools. 

The decision to integrate the six schools into two, however, will have similar effects to closing universities entirely. The university system will lose 674 employees, or nearly 7% of its workforce in the 2021-2022 year, The Inquirer reported. 

Jamie Martin, president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, told The Inquirer that she is worried about the welfare of students who return to a campus with larger class sizes and fewer academic programs and faculty advisors. Martin told The Inquirer that the reductions could be implemented in a few years to avoid layoffs, given that 250 faculty took early retirement this year.

The Board of Governors, however, claims that the changes are unavoidable.

“Thirteen universities have lost 30% of their students since 2010,” Greenstein told The Inquirer. “We’ve pushed tuition about as high as we can. We are losing students. It’s just not fair to continue to operate in a way that doesn’t take account of the fact that we’re just smaller.”

The two integrated universities will open to students in August 2022 at the earliest. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education plans to release an official implementation plan in mid-2021.