Jefrey F. Wall, Ballot Position No. 29

Jefrey F. Wall ’74, ’76g Lib
Business Manager, Penns Valley Area School District
Ambridge, Pa.

Read Wall’s official bio and position statement here (PDF download).

Answers to Questions

1. In view of sharply declining state appropriations, what steps should Penn State be taking to secure its financial future?

The leadership at Penn State must demonstrate to all funding sources, public and private, that the University is doing everything possible to enhance it’s “spend management” (read “save money and cut costs!”). Routinely crying poor, while showing cost increases well above that of the general rate of inflation, does not resonate well with the public.

This means making difficult choices each and every budgetary cycle, not just when the State and private dollars are tight, as they are now. Questions such as “do we absolutely need this and can we afford it” need to be asked on a daily basis. Every employee vacancy needs to be evaluated to see if a reorganization of current personnel can get the job done.

The rapid growth of facilities and programs over the past 20-30 years, and all future plans for expansion, requires a thorough and ongoing review. Like most educational institutions, the focus needs to be on the organization’s core offerings. Marginal programs may require renewed scrutiny to determine their continued efficacy.

All of the above ideas are not new. During the most recent economic downturn, every successful organization has done most of these things and more. If Chrysler, Starbucks and Ford can do it, so can Penn State. I’m sure we have some really smart people at the University that can study these success stories and employ the “best practices” used elsewhere.

2. The rising cost of tuition nationally is making college less affordable for many students. Outline the steps you believe Penn State should be taking to address the issue.

I am the son of a middle class family, who sacrificed to provide me with the Penn State education that has helped define me. Nearly all my college friends’ parents were steelworkers, farmers, or small business owners. Today, a Penn State education for middle class families is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain. I know first-hand because our family has just recently provided a Penn State education for our two daughters.

The question of the affordability of a Penn State education is inexorably linked to the “spend management” referred to in the first question. Every dollar saved on the expense side can be freed up to assist a Penn State student. Expense savings gleaned by a department or college could be directly targeted to assist students enrolled in that entity.

A greater emphasis needs to placed on reducing individual student costs, not just though financial aid to the most needy, but in a general lowering of tuition and fees. Admittedly, scholarships or other means of tuition assistance aren’t as “sexy” as a new building or facility. Perhaps the future planning for Penn State should be geared toward the affordability of a Penn State education, and not on the expansion of the physical plant. All the fancy new buildings in the world will be useless if the students can’t pay their tuition bills.

3. What form should Penn State’s land-grant mission take in the 21st century?

Justin Smith Morrill, author of the Morrill Land Grant Act, was the son of a blacksmith who could not afford to educate all his children. Morrill’s vision was a system universities throughout the country to provide a college education at a low cost to all those who desired one. This education was to be focused on the “agricultural and the mechanical arts.”

Having worked with or in education for the past 15 years, I have observed a variety of institutions re-evaluating their programs in an attempt to match expenses with the shrinking revenues available.  Cutting the fat without trimming to the bone is the challenge. As I stated in my response to the first question above, focusing on the core competencies of the University would be the first place I believe the organization should place its efforts.

Focusing on the core competencies does not mean ignoring the impact new emerging technologies and their impact on main mission. The challenge is remaining true to that mission while being innovative and progressive. If Penn State can stick to these core offerings, and do it better than anyone else, they will in fact fulfill their land grant university mandate.

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2 Comments Add your own

  • […] out my position statement and vote #29! Share this:TwitterFacebookLike this:LikeBe the first to like this post. This entry […]

  • 2. Paul  |  April 12, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    Jef, I hope with all of your knowelege and business savy that you win. That’s exactly what is needes.

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