Course correction: A new leader brings Cal U change for the better

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A new attitude is evident at California University of Pennsylvania, three months after longtime president Angelo Armenti Jr. was fired and replaced by former provost Geraldine Jones.

The interim president addressed faculty and staff members Tuesday inside the university's controversial, $59 million convocation center, and plenty of what she said struck the right tone.

First and foremost, she was upfront in describing an operating deficit that threatened to approach $12 million -- 10 percent of the campus budget -- and she explained some of the measures taken that reduced it to $4.2 million today. Ms. Jones saved money by keeping some positions vacant, ordering management furloughs, reducing campus bus service and negotiating a cut in lease costs at Southpointe Center.

Not all of the changes she announced, however, were of the cost-saving variety. She gave students a break by eliminating about $200 in fees, a decision that meant most of them saw only a $1 per semester increase even though tuition went up by 3 percent and technology fees by $28. She made an equally sound choice for the university's future when, faced with a 9 percent loss of enrollment, she did not loosen admission standards, a prospect that could have undercut gains in academic performance made during her predecessor's tenure.

Unfortunately, all of California University's troubles are not in the rearview mirror. The total cost of attendance for resident students last year was among the highest of the 14 state-owned schools, and the fallout from Mr. Armenti's reign continues.

While he is credited with increasing enrollment, raising the standards for freshman admission and transforming the campus with physical improvements and new buildings, the school accrued huge debt. An audit by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which runs all 14 state-owned campuses, also found questionable practices.

The experience of Cal U demonstrated the importance of open leadership and close oversight by both university trustees and the state system itself. We hope that when the trustees meet next week, they keep California moving in the same, new direction that Ms. Jones suggested on Tuesday.

opinion_editorials


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