Robert J. Bowsher, Ballot Position No. 34

Robert J. Bowsher ’86 Bus
San Diego, Calif.

Read Bowsher’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?

Expanding Penn State’s student population will do wonders for securing our beloved alma mater’s financial future.  The university has spent a lot of money lately on constructing buildings.  Now it’s time to attract a student population that can help pay for those buildings and their legacy costs.  Through its online curriculum and its Global Programs, Penn State needs to reach out to Baby Boomer retirees and other people who can build the tuition base that will help offset the sharply declining state appropriations.    Innovative cost-saving programs that boost morale will also be needed to secure the university’s financial future.  The last thing Penn State needs now is a “slash-and-burn” round of cuts that destroys morale and makes employees fear for their jobs.  Instead, employees should be recognized and rewarded whenever they reduce costs and simultaneously improve their work environments.

Promoting Penn State athletics will help too.  The university sports teams bring in much-needed revenue and bring much-needed attention to our alma mater.  Some people believe athletics undermine a school’s academic reputation.  If that’s the case, then with all of its football team’s recent success, why are degrees from Stanford University just as valuable today as they were when the Stanford football team was posting losing records?    By taking steps like the ones described above and by adopting a philosophy of living within its means, Penn State will survive these economically challenging times.

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.

No issue impacts Penn State constituents more than the rising cost of tuition, and no issue threatens our alma mater’s future more than this one does.  It’s time for the university’s leadership to focus its efforts primarily on making a college education more affordable.

Offering lower-cost online courses to freshmen and sophomores would be a good step in the direction of affordability.  Another step would involve centralizing the development of these online courses in a Distance Learning Center rather than relying on each college to develop its own online curriculum.  The cost savings resulting from this synergy could then be passed on to students in the form of lower tuitions for online courses.

Prudent financial management of the university’s resources is another essential step that can result in cost savings passed on as tuition decreases.  Gone are the days when universities could mask financial mismanagement with tuition hikes.  Many students come from single-parent families now, households that can’t afford to foot the bill for excessive spending by university officials.

Last but not least, Penn State must take the step of conducting a study to develop a breakthrough strategy for this financial crisis.  Our alma mater must fill this panel with its brightest minds, and then empower this panel with the necessary authority to implement the solutions that will make a college education more affordable and that will ultimately preserve Penn State’s future for many years to come.

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

For years, the College of Agricultural Sciences has been working together with organizations that employ Penn State graduates and that provide research grants to the university.  This partnership has resulted in the college turning out career-ready graduates while bringing in critical funding for agricultural research and public service programs.  This partnership has thereby advanced all three parts of the land-grant mission: teaching, research and public service.

For our alma mater to thrive in the 21st century, every college at Penn State will need to form more of these partnerships.  By understanding what organizations are looking for in career-ready graduates, Penn State can remain agile and can adapt courses accordingly to help students acquire the skills they need to make an impact.  The university can simultaneously learn what opportunities these same organizations are providing in terms of research grants.  Public service programs can also be designed to meet these organizations’ needs and to continue the university’s longstanding tradition of making quality higher education accessible to as many people as possible beyond the Penn State campuses.

Two-time Nobel Prize winner Marie Curie once stated, “Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood.”  Penn State can dispel the fears associated with unemployment and state appropriation cuts by cultivating these partnerships and by understanding how these partnerships will help advance the university’s land-grant mission throughout the 21st century.

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