For the Herald-Standard
California University of Pennsylvania is months away from integrating with Clarion and Edinboro universities to become Pennsylvania Western University, or PennWest.
Spokeswoman Wendy Mackall said the three universities have been working diligently toward launching the new university July 1. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, an institutional accrediting agency, granted initial approval for the integration. The accreditation is a requirement of the U.S. Department of Education.
“From the start, we have been intentional about building a student-focused university through the integration process,” said Dr. Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson, who serves as president of Clarion and interim president at California and Edinboro.
The integration will allow students to participate remotely in extracurricular activities that are offered at other campuses, Mackall said. Classes will be offered both virtually and in person.
“As we proceed toward integration as Pennsylvania Western University on July 1, we will offer an array of fully online courses, or courses that are available face-to-face and also online to students on other campuses,” she said. “We also will be able to offer a variety of extracurricular activities that are located at one of our campuses to faculty, staff and students at the other campuses using remote technologies.”
Mackall said that the existing undergraduate programs offered at the three universities will continue in the 2022-2023 school year. Most programs will launch with new program requirements and curriculums during the Fall 2023 semester. Graduate programs offered at the new university will launch in the Fall 2022 semester, she said.
She said they relaxed their COVID-19 restrictions on campus in early March, but they are continuing to monitor the situation and follow guidance from the CDC and state Department of Health.
Mackall said five faculty members participated in a new instructional coaching course.
“We sent five faculty members to the Instructional Coaching Institute, a unique learning opportunity that explains instructional coaching (a practice of one faculty member providing feedback on another faculty’s instructional style) and helps with understanding of the coaching process and practices,” she wrote in an email. “We are preparing to continue their coaching preparation through virtual software from an external campus partner this spring.”
Data from the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education shows enrollment declined slightly for Cal U two years in a row. There were 4,326 undergraduate students enrolled at the university for the Spring 2021 semester, according to the most recent data available. There were 4,703 undergraduate students during the Spring 2019 semester and 4,493 in the Spring 2020 semester.
Other Pennsylvania state universities faced a similar trend. Statewide, there were 76,103 undergraduate students enrolled during the Spring 2019 semester, 73,814 during the Spring 2020 semester and 71,088 during Spring 2021.
Mackall said tentatively, enrollment data shows early signs that the downward trend may shift.
“We are optimistic for Fall 2022 based on some very early numbers, but we truly can’t say at this early stage of the recruitment cycle,” she said.
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