Governor Shapiro Delivers New Blueprint for Higher Education, Focused on Competitiveness and Workforce Development & Grounded in Access and Affordability

Governor Shapiro’s blueprint works to ensure every Pennsylvanian will have the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed.


Under Governor Shapiro’s plan, higher education will serve as an economic driver for Pennsylvania, prepare workers for the future, and address workforce shortages.


Pennsylvania currently ranks 48th for affordability and 49th for state investment in higher education – and Governor Shapiro knows we must take action to improve access and opportunity for Pennsylvania students.

Harrisburg, PA — Today, Governor Josh Shapiro released a new blueprint for higher education in Pennsylvania, focused on competitiveness and workforce development, and grounded in access and affordability. Much of Governor Shapiro’s blueprint is based on the work of the Higher Education Working Group – a group of higher education leaders from across Pennsylvania appointed by Governor Shapiro to develop a series of recommendations for improving higher education in the Commonwealth.   

“Every Pennsylvanian deserves the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “For some, that means going right into the workforce – but for those who want to go to college or get a credential, we need to rethink our system of higher education. Whether you want to take one course to brush up on your skills, earn a certificate to qualify for a promotion, or pursue a degree that will lead to a new career – you deserve accessible, affordable higher education options. That’s true for every student, whether you attend one of our historic HBCUs, a community college, a PASSHE institution, a state-related university, or an independent college or university. That’s exactly what my plan will deliver, and we’ll build a higher education system that opens up doors of opportunity, prepares our workforce, and serves as the linchpin to Pennsylvania’s economic success.”

After 30 years of disinvestment, too many of our colleges and universities are running on empty and not enough students have affordable pathways through college and into good jobs. Pennsylvania spends less on higher education than every other state except for New Hampshire – that means the financial burden of higher education falls on our institutions and students, who are forced to cut services, raise tuition, and take on more debt.

Colleges are competing with one another for limited dollars – duplicating degree programs, driving up costs, and actually reducing access. Over the past decade, PASSHE enrollment has dropped 30 percent and community college enrollment has decreased by 37 percent. 

That’s why, in his first budget address, Governor Shapiro spoke about these issues of equity, opportunity, and affordability and proclaimed our system broken – earning bipartisan praise and agreement. After his first budget address, Governor Shapiro brought together a working group of higher education leaders and engaged stakeholders across the Commonwealth to examine these significant challenges and offer recommendations for a path forward.

With their ideas and expertise, Governor Shapiro is delivering a three-part blueprint for higher education:

Creating A New System to Address Pennsylvania’s Needs

First, Governor Shapiro’s plan will build a new system for higher education that unites our PASSHE universities and our 15 community colleges under a new governance system, preserving local leadership while uniting both types of institutions behind the goal of educating Pennsylvania.

Together, PASSHE and our community colleges will be able to create pathways to affordable credentials and degrees that students can access throughout their lifetimes, improve coordination between schools, and serve as the most affordable higher education option for Pennsylvania students.

In his budget address on February 6th, Governor Shapiro will propose a significant investment in state-owned universities, community colleges, and the students they serve.

Increasing Access & Affordability

Second, once that new system is in place, Governor Shapiro’s plan will make significant investments to ensure higher education is both affordable and accessible for all, because any Pennsylvanian who wants to pursue a higher education should have the opportunity to do so – no matter where they come from or how much money their family makes. 

Under the new system created by Governor Shapiro’s plan, Pennsylvanians making up to the median income will pay no more than $1,000 in tuition and fees per semester at state-owned universities and community colleges.

To help students attending state-related universities and independent colleges, Governor Shapiro’s plan will increase PHEAA grants for all students by $1,000.

Increasing Transparency & Improving Outcomes

Third, Governor Shapiro believes Pennsylvania should pay for performance. That’s why he’s proposing that direct appropriations to publicly funded colleges and universities be distributed on the basis of a predictable, transparent, outcomes-focused formula that will incentivize colleges and universities to focus on what’s most important to the Commonwealth. A performance-based funding model has already been embraced by higher education leaders across the Commonwealth, including Penn State President Neeli Bendapudi.

In consultation with higher education stakeholders, the Shapiro Administration will establish a predictable, performance-based funding formula that rewards public and state-related colleges and universities for achieving outcomes that benefit the Commonwealth. The formula will take into consideration factors including but not limited to increasing enrollment, the number of first-generation college students that receive credentials, and the graduation rate. Furthermore, the formula will incentivize institutions to recruit and support students to complete degrees and earn credentials in fields facing workforce shortages, such as education and nursing, and growing fields like advanced manufacturing and biotechnology, that will drive our Commonwealth’s economic growth in the decades to come.

Finally, Governor Shapiro will ensure this performance-based funding formula is driven out through the Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) for state-related universities. This will no longer require a two-thirds vote in the legislature, breaking the cycle of political gamesmanship that has held funding hostage.

This blueprint for higher education will help keep young people in Pennsylvania, attract more workers and companies to our Commonwealth, help students build the skills they need to fill good-paying jobs, and ensure employers can find the talented, prepared workers and strong thinkers they need to thrive and grow.

From Pennsylvania’s two historic HBCUs and the PASSHE system, to its community colleges, state-related universities, and independent colleges, Governor Shapiro’s bold vision for higher education will take advantage of Pennsylvania’s strengths, like its dedicated staff and faculty, diverse set of institutions, and significant partnerships with the private sector. This blueprint will serve as the linchpin to our Commonwealth’s economic success, setting us up for growth and prosperity for generations to come.

See what higher education, business, and government leaders are saying about Governor Shapiro’s higher education blueprint:

“PASSHE’s remarkable transformation over the past six years shows that a collaborative system is good for students, communities, and employers, and we know higher education can accomplish so much more by uniting. The governor’s proposal is a real opportunity to build upon the strengths of PASSHE universities and the community colleges. Together we can create a new, larger system with better collaboration that gives students more pathways to a degree or credential, rapidly adjusts to the changing knowledge and skills employers want, and provides the lowest-cost option for students throughout their lifetime.” – PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein

“I have been a strong advocate for performance-based funding in higher education, not only to enhance transparency and accountability, but also to achieve meaningful outcomes for our students. I am extremely pleased to see that part of Gov. Shapiro’s blueprint is a call to establish a predictable performance-based funding formula, and we look forward to working with the legislature to implement such a model. This initiative presents a significant opportunity for Penn State and other state-related institutions to work together with the Commonwealth on shared goals for workforce and economic development.” – Neeli Bendapudi, President, Penn State

“We are very grateful to the Governor for his bold initiative in support of higher education in Pennsylvania. Temple is eager to collaborate with the governor’s efforts to support our students, ensure greater access, affordability and excellence in higher education, and spur economic growth in the Commonwealth.” – Richard M. Englert, President, Temple University

“We thank Governor Shapiro for his leadership in putting forth an innovative blueprint to give Pennsylvania students greater opportunities for affordable, high-quality higher education and to bolster the role of colleges and universities like Pitt in driving Pennsylvania’s economic success. Pitt looks forward to working with the Shapiro Administration and the legislature to enact a higher education plan that delivers for students and puts Pennsylvania on a path to a more competitive workforce and a more robust economy.” – Joan Gabel, Chancellor, University of Pittsburgh

“A higher education opens the door to opportunity for our students – here at Lincoln, we empower students to learn, liberate, and lead throughout their lives. The outcomes-based funding formula Governor Shapiro has proposed in his bold new blueprint for higher education would support us in our work by delivering additional funding to support our historic mission, while also giving state-related universities like Lincoln stability and a chance to plan for the future needs of our students.” – Dr. Brenda Allen, President, Lincoln University

“I am encouraged by Governor Shapiro’s vision for a new blueprint for higher education in Pennsylvania.  This is a wonderful opportunity for the 10 PASSHE colleges and 15 community colleges to work together to develop a system that is accessible, affordable and creates opportunities for Pennsylvanians across the Commonwealth.  I look forward to working with my colleagues and Governor Shapiro to forward this project.” – Dr. Quintin Bullock, President, the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC)

“At HACC, we believe that a college education should be accessible to all – no matter their background. Governor Shapiro’s vision of a higher education sector sets Pennsylvanians, including current and future HACC students, up for success by making it easier for them to transfer earned credits, build skills that employers are seeking and save time and money in the process. HACC looks forward to working with Governor Shapiro and the Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education to create pathways to affordable credentials and degrees that will change lives, destinies and family trees in Central Pennsylvania and beyond.” – John J. “Ski” Sygielski, President and CEO of HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College

“Undoubtedly, this is a crucial moment in Pennsylvania’s history, and Governor Shapiro’s emphasis on the state’s health and vitality resonates strongly here in Centre County and the Centre Region. Workforce challenges are a common concern for employers across the board, and the diminishing workforce puts Pennsylvania at a significant disadvantage both now and in the future. I believe that the Governor’s vision to strengthen Pennsylvania and enhance its competitiveness is a step in the right direction. The Higher Education Blueprint, with its focus on providing greater access for our students, making higher education more affordable for those most in need, and implementing performance-based funding models, while providing transparency and accountability, holds promise for building a stronger future workforce. This, in turn, will enable us to meet the evolving needs of our businesses and communities. The Chamber of Business and Industry of Centre County stands firmly behind this vision and advocates for the policies and funding that will contribute to an increasingly educated workforce, ultimately driving our economy forward. I appreciate the Governor’s commitment to addressing these critical issues, and I am grateful to offer my support to such a vital challenge.” – Greg Scott, President and CEO, Chamber of Business & Industry Centre County

“We were pleased to hear about Governor Shapiro’s Blueprint for Higher Education. As the gap continues to widen for available jobs and credentialed applicants, the Governor’s plan appears to be a critical step for the Commonwealth to take to address these demands. We are open to supporting efforts to provide access to affordable education so that our community and our state continue to grow and prosper.” – James Grunke, President and CEO, Erie Regional Chamber & Growth Partnership

“Governor Shapiro’s Blueprint for Higher Education puts Pennsylvania on a trajectory for success. Not only in creating an equitable pathway to education and training but for students living in rural PA who want educational opportunities and face accessibility, financial, and transportation obstacles.” – Angela Harding, Clinton County Commissioner

“I am excited to see Governor Shapiro’s plan for a higher education sector that sets a predictable funding formula. This will help local community colleges like ours in Luzerne County and in turn help local taxpayers by providing stable and predictable funding going forward. Stable funding will educate and train a workforce that will drive economic growth and prosperity for every community in Pennsylvania.” – Jimmy Sabatino, Luzerne County Councilman

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