Pennsylvania Takes Bold Steps to Address College Affordability and Student Well-being

Happy studentPhoto by Andrea Piacquadio on

HARRISBURG, PA — The Pennsylvania Department of Education (PDE) has initiated an innovative anti-stigma campaign dubbed ‘PA MASLOW’ to aid postsecondary students grappling with basic needs. This new campaign aims to bolster students’ access to critical resources such as housing, transportation, financial aid, and physical and mental health services.

As succinctly put by Secretary of Education Dr. Khalid N. Mumin, students perform their best when they feel their best. This sentiment forms the cornerstone of the PA MASLOW campaign, which aims to remind students that seeking help is not a sign of weakness, but a step towards self-actualization. In line with this, specially designed posters can be printed and posted throughout campuses, guiding students toward invaluable resources.

The PDE has also taken the novel approach of hosting student panel discussions across the state, aimed at informing this campaign as well as spearheading improvements in the programs and policies employed by postsecondary institutions. These proactive dialogues, held quarterly, foster a platform for students to express their concerns and engage with field experts, encouraging collective efforts to enhance anti-stigma drives.

This campaign aligns seamlessly with Governor Josh Shapiro’s bold proposal for higher education. His strategic blueprint for higher education promises a radical increase in funding for colleges and universities, alongside streamlining these institutions under a unified governance structure. Remarkably, tuition costs for income-eligible students will be capped, offering a more affordable route to higher education for every Pennsylvanian.

Shockingly, current statistics reveal Pennsylvania to be one of the least affordable states for college education. The National College Attainment Network (NCAN) reports that only a mere 18% of two-year institutions and, alarmingly, no four-year institutions are affordable for low to moderate-income families. On a national scale, these figures rise to 63% for two-year institutions and 31% for four-year institutions. It is within this context that Governor Shapiro’s revolutionary blueprint has been developed; it promises to help reverse these disconcerting trends.

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This grand plan has more to offer. Governor Shapiro’s 2024-25 budget projects an investment of $975 million in community colleges and PASSHE universities. This represents a substantial 15% increase in annual funding for these institutions in comparison to last year. Further, students from median-income families will be required to pay no more than $1,000 in tuition and fees per semester at state-owned universities and community colleges, signifying a significant step towards making higher education affordable for all.

PA MASLOW is an inter-agency initiative that serves to strengthen the mission of the PDE – providing access to education and fostering a conducive environment for learning. This program engages postsecondary institutions in a multi-pronged approach, addressing digital equity, housing and transportation, mental health and personal needs, finances, and safety and belonging.

Emanating from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Basic Needs, the program is designed to support postsecondary students in a comprehensive manner. By addressing these essential needs, along with adult student-specific needs in a more individualized approach, PA MASLOW aims to ensure that learners are fully equipped to succeed, graduate, and enter the workforce equipped with valuable credentials.

As we bravely tackle the high cost of higher education and its devastating impact on students with limited financial resources, Governor Shapiro’s blueprint and the PA MASLOW campaign work toward prioritizing the needs of its students. Together, these initiatives have the potential to revolutionize higher education in the state, making it not just accessible, but affordable for all. It promises a future where Pennsylvanians can chart their own course, seize opportunities for success, and enjoy the freedom of choice – a future where the dream of higher education is no longer a far-off reality, but an attainable goal for every aspiring student.

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