Legislation Delivering on Governor Shapiro's Bold Vision for Future of Higher Education Introduced in General Assembly

SB 1248 and HB 2398 will invest in higher education after decades of disinvestment, lower college costs for students, and serve as an economic driver for generations to come.


The plan will help students build skills they need to find good-paying jobs and build a life in Pennsylvania.

Harrisburg, PA – Today, Governor Josh Shapiro announced that Senator Jay Costa and Representative Peter Schweyer have introduced the Governor's plan for higher education as SB 1248 and HB 2398. Building off the Blueprint for Higher Education proposed by the Governor earlier this year, the plan reinvests in publicly funded colleges and universities, improves coordination between institutions of higher education, makes college more affordable, helps close workforce shortage gaps by helping more Pennsylvanians earn college credentials, attracts more people to Pennsylvania and keep them here, and serves as an economic driver for our Commonwealth for generations to come.

“I firmly believe that every Pennsylvanian deserves the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed. We need to respect all paths to success, and invest in them. For too long, Pennsylvania has disinvested in higher education – leading to higher costs and barriers that actually drive students away from pursuing a higher education,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “This plan for higher education creates real opportunity for our students by reinvesting in higher education, lowering the cost of college, and incentivizing colleges and universities to work together to meet our Commonwealth’s critical workforce needs. It delivers real freedom for Pennsylvanians to pursue an affordable, high-quality college education at any point in their lives – whether they want to build a skill, earn a credential, or pursue a degree.” 

The legislation introduced today includes three elements that when taken together will address the longstanding challenges faced by the higher education sector by: creating a State Board of Higher Education to increase coordination between higher education institutions in order to increase accessibility, fill critical workforce gaps, and train students for the jobs Pennsylvania needs while maintaining local control; investing in publicly funded colleges and universities to help them reach their full potential via a predictable, transparent funding formula that will align state dollars with the needs of the Commonwealth; and making college more affordable by ensuring that Pennsylvanians making up to the median income pay no more than $1,000 in tuition and fees per semester at state-owned universities and community colleges. 

The plan also increases Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) state grants by $1,000 for students from a family that makes up to the median income, bringing the maximum award up from $5,750 to $6,750 beginning in FY2025-26. 

"I am so proud to be introducing this package of Higher Education legislation to fulfill the vision Governor Shapiro laid out during his budget address,” said Senator Jay Costa. “The time for action on higher education in our commonwealth is now, and I'm so glad we are taking steps to improve the governance, accountability, and affordability of our state universities and community colleges. I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to get these important bills over the finish line."

“Everyone should have the ability to get a college education with as little debt as possible and with a clear path to a family-sustaining career,” said Representative Peter Schweyer. “This legislation will provide immediate support for students by creating new scholarship programs to help them today. It would also create a permanent space for leaders in higher education to come to the same table and work on policies that will further this goal.”

Governor Shapiro’s plan for higher education delivers commonsense solutions to significant challenges facing Pennsylvania.

According to the National College Attainment Network (NCAN), Pennsylvania is one of the least affordable states to attend college, with only 18% of two-year institutions and 0% of four-year institutions attainable for low- and moderate-income families. Nationally, 63% of two-year institutions and 31% of four-year institutions are affordable for that same population of students.

As tuition has increased students have turned away from Pennsylvania’s colleges and universities. PASSHE enrollment has dropped 30% over the past decade.  Total community college enrollment has dropped by 37%, and some community colleges, PASSHE universities, and Penn State branch campuses have seen enrollment drop by almost 50% over the same time period.

The result is a significant gap between the number of jobs in Pennsylvania that require a high-quality degree or credential – such as nurses, teachers, and mental health professionals – and the number of Pennsylvanians who can fill those jobs. We currently need 61,000 more people with the right degrees or credentials to fill those open jobs, but conservative estimates show that gap will increase to at least 210,000 within a decade if we don’t take action.

Governor Shapiro unveiled his blueprint in January to lower costs, increase college attainment, and close workforce gaps – and he called for higher education leaders, legislators, students, parents, and stakeholders to bring all of their best ideas to the table to build on that foundation.

As introduced in SB 1248 and HB 2398, the plan is informed by substantial feedback from higher education leaders and other vested partners across the Commonwealth and will ensure Pennsylvania students have the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed. This legislation will ensure that our higher education sector has the direction and support it needs to serve as an economic driver for Pennsylvania for generations to come. 

“PASSHE is the most affordable and accessible opportunity for students of all backgrounds to attain the four-year post-secondary education that will transform their lives--because we have kept tuition flat for six years and opened programs that meet workforce needs and market demands,” said Cynthia Shapira, Chair of the PASSHE Board of Governors. “All of this is due to increased state investment, our universities’ dedication to sound operations, and a commitment to working together as a system.  We thank Governor Shapiro and the General Assembly for making higher education a priority. We believe in the benefits of a blueprint for higher education in the commonwealth, and we look forward to continuing to work with them as they craft a vision for higher education that benefits students and makes our state more competitive.”  

“Additional resources for our colleges and our students will not only help expand access to education and training and increase academic achievement for our students, these resources will also enable community colleges to continue to meet the Commonwealth’s growing workforce needs,” said Quintin Bullock, President of the Community College of Allegheny County 

“We are supportive of the idea of a coordinating body to guide the Commonwealth’s strategy for higher education,” said Richard M. Englert, President of Temple University. “We also agree that it makes sense to give that body primary responsibility for determining and evaluating performance-based funding metrics. The metrics included in the Blueprint legislation align with the collective work of all the state-related institutions and, therefore, are an appropriate starting point for moving forward.” 

For more information on how Governor Shapiro’s plan for higher education and proposed budget will create opportunity for Pennsylvanians and build affordable pathways to a college education, visit shapirobudget.pa.gov

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