Karen Levine Weaver, Ballot Position No. 23

Karen Levine Weaver ’82 Sci
Project Management, Merck
Franklin Lakes, N.J.

Read Weaver’s official bio and position statement here (PDF format).

Answers to Questions

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

Penn State should push back on the Pennsylvania government officials to continue to fund the university.  In addition to recent attendance at Capital Day in Harrisburg, private meetings should be scheduled with Governor Corbett and other key decision makers for Dr. Erickson and student government representatives to provide an opportunity to share the specific and direct impacts that reduction in funding would have on the students, faculty, future research, and the university’s programs. In-state students would be forced to pay tuition costs that approach what out-of-state students are paying.  In addition, capital improvements for state-of-the-art facilities would be suspended.  The future of Penn State cannot depend solely on generous donors.  It would be a shame to see any of the commonwealth campuses shut down because funding is unavailable to sustain all of them.  However, with a 30% appropriations reduction coupled with the 19% reduction last year, Penn State will be forced to face tough choices moving forward.

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.

a) Penn State needs to re-evaluate current core curricula to determine whether the number of General Education credits required for a Bachelor degree can be reduced. Although these credits “enrich” a student’s education, they also contribute to a longer timeline for completion of a degree. The 4-year graduation rate has rapidly approached the 5 and 6-year mark. Universities in other countries (e.g. Bond University, Australia) do not require these extra credits. Bachelor degree programs can be completed in less than 3 years.

b) Penn State needs to continue to lobby state government for support of continuing state appropriations.

c) Penn State needs to look at other technology options for completion of credits via online classes.

d) Penn State should obtain the services of independent auditors who can objectively review university budgets and habits to make recommendations for cost-savings opportunities.

e)  Alumni should elect BOT members who are not wealthy and who have paid out-of-pocket tuition and taken huge loans. These members would better represent the hardship of paying for college education and for dealing with ever-increasing tuition costs from the average student’s and parent’s perspective.

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

The land-grant mission may have been a successful approach in the 19th and 20th centuries. However, it now requires significant restructuring to meet the changing needs of Penn State University and its stakeholders in the 21st century and beyond. This mission originally pledged that “the cost of higher education would remain within reach of Americans of average financial means”. As a parent of PSU twins, I know first-hand what sacrifices need to be made to ensure my children get a quality education. Although I don’t benefit directly from the cost of in-state tuition, my children benefit from the cornerstones of the mission that include teaching, research, and public outreach opportunities that Penn State provides. These should not be altered as these are the elements which the university gives back to the Pennsylvania commonwealth and to the world through its successful programs. In today’s global economy, students need to be prepared for the job market and the real world they are entering. A revised land-grant mission needs to take this into account. Our students are our future.

The BOT structure is too large, complex, and ineffective. If the land grant mission cannot provide for adequate state appropriations moving forward, then the rules governing the ratio of in-state to out-of-state enrollment may need to allow for more out-of-state tuition contributions. Today, that ratio is 70% in-state vs. 30% out-of-state enrollment. Responsible investment of every dollar is paramount to Penn State’s future.

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