Scott K. Munroe, Ballot Position No. 31

Scott K. Munroe ’98 A&A
Campus Landscape Architect, University of Maryland
Catonsville, Md.

Read Munroe’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?

There are three major steps that the University must take to ensure its financial future.

a. Regain and rebuild support in Harrisburg in two steps. The first is through a full understanding of the mutual benefits that state funding of Penn State has for Pennsylvania and how this funding actually helps the residents of Pennsylvania.  The second is through the election of pro-Penn State members to the General Assembly by leveraging the talent and skills of our Alumni and the voting power we have.

b. Fiscal Budget discipline. We must look to all aspects of the University to find areas where we can streamline spending and costs, while ensuring the maintenance and quality of our facilities.  This will involve very difficult decisions and may even result in the restructuring of academic programs and departments as well as how our physical plant is maintained and operated with a strong focus on preventative maintenance and long term reductions in life cycle costs.

c. Developing and enhancing alternate revenue streams. We are good but we can be better at gaining research grants and donations.  We must be better in the targeted use of funds that we get in, by refocusing on our existing infrastructure and programs and making their long-term viability the priority for fund expenditure before additional expenditures are made.  If a structure or program is not viable for the long term then we must cut it.  No new programs should be added unless they have proven long term funding and support.

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.

Penn State needs to freeze the cost of instate tuition until it is back in line with our neighboring states and institutions.  This may prove the most difficult financial endeavor for the Board and it will cause a lot of strain on our operating budgets.  It is however, extremely important to University’s mission to provide a quality and affordable education to deserving students in the State of Pennsylvania.  This step requires that the steps outlined in securing our financial future are met and successful.

It is important to realize that this has been done in Maryland for the entire University System of Maryland and was done during the height of the recession and budget cuts.  The University System of Maryland has emerged leaner and stronger and the tuition rate is now one of the lowest in the Mid-Atlantic region for instate tuition at a public University, and the quality of the programs and students as risen throughout this period.

It is likely that Penn State would have to freeze tuition for up to four years and then maintain a cap on the levels for future increases to ensure that affordability is maintained.  All of this will require us to rebuild the relationship we have with Harrisburg as I have described, since financial support and backing from the State will be critical through this effort.

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

The beauty of the land-grant mission is how pliable it is to the real world needs at any given moment.  On Penn State’s Website we have interpreted the mission to be one of teaching, research and public service and with the addition of rededicating ourselves to keeping the cost of this education within the “reach of Americans of average financial means,” we will continue to be moving in the right direction.

The University’s reach also is no longer local to the state.  Increasingly it is global and digital.  This does not mean that we can turn our backs on our physical campus but that we must broaden our views of what it means to get a Penn State education.  This brings that mission back to the forefront.  We can ensure that the values and quality of our academics, and students remains in the long tradition of Penn State.  For those that attend our physical campuses we can ensure the high quality well maintained facilities and academic faculty, and for the digital campus we must ensure that while the student my not sit in a university building on campus, when they log into our world campus there location becomes our campus, and the experience must be as complete and rewarding as that of a student sitting in lecture or working in a lab.  Both of these platforms also must include a strong dedication to public service so as to continue the strength of what it means to bleed blue and white.

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