California, Clarion, Edinboro Provide Western Integration Updates

Mar 04, 2021

University presidents share emerging plans with their campus communities.

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NOTE: Interim University President Robert Thorn shared the information below in an email to students, faculty and staff at California University of Pennsylvania. President Dale-Elizabeth Pehrsson sent a similar message to the campus communities at Clarion and Edinboro universities.

“Plans for the proposed integration of California, Clarion and Edinboro universities continue to take shape as we look ahead to their consideration by the PASSHE Board of Governors.

“Last week, the Western Integration project reached an important milestone: submission of crucial paperwork – Preliminary Complex Substantive Change Forms – to our accrediting body, the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE).

“Each partner university submitted a preliminary form that describes our plan to integrate (Middle States uses the term “consolidate”) California, Clarion and Edinboro to create a single integrated/consolidated university. The submission outlines the proposed change and explains why integration/consolidation is a good fit for California and our partner universities.

“While not identical, the forms submitted to Middle States are aligned and consistent, with common boilerplate, timelines and details. Some highlights:

Administrative hub: Middle States requires the new Integrated University to identify one partner campus as its administrative hub for accreditation purposes. To meet that requirement most efficiently and provide a seamless transition, the Integrated University will retain the accreditation and degree-granting authority of California, the partner school that most recently completed the Middle States accreditation process. 

Middle States uses the term “main campus” to describe the administrative hub. Although this designation is required by MSCHE accreditation policies and appears in the submission for compliance purposes, we have clearly stated to Middle States that the three campuses of our new Integrated University will operate as partners in all other respects.

Naming process: Middle States officials are aware that the Integrated University will have a new name, which has yet to be determined. Within the naming convention for the new integrated/consolidated university, we expect to incorporate the current location name (California, Clarion, Edinboro) for the partner campuses.

Functional areas: A tentative organizational chart, also required for the Middle States submission, depicts the Integrated University organized into seven functional areas: Academic Affairs; Student Affairs; Strategic Enrollment Management; University Advancement; Administration and Finance; Diversity, Equity and Inclusion; and Virtual and Global Education. This basic, three-level org chart (president > direct reports > functional areas) is still evolving; it will be expanded to include job titles and other details in the months ahead.

The process of filling positions at the Integrated University is still being developed. We anticipate a transition period during the implementation phase of the project, with some roles filled by appointment and others through an interview process. No potential changes will impact our legal responsibility to honor collective bargaining agreements. In the meantime, retirement incentives are being offered through System Redesign.

“Once Middle States has reviewed the Preliminary Complex Substantive Change Form and each university responds to any questions or information requests, Western Integration planners will prepare the more in-depth Complex Substantive Change Forms, which identify how each partner university will meet Middle States standards within the integrated/consolidated entity.

“The Northeastern Integration will be following the same accreditation process in the weeks ahead. Middle States recommended that one set of integration partners submit first and wait for feedback before the second set of partners makes its submission.

“Meanwhile, Western Integration working groups have used enrollment, completion, faculty complement and regional workforce data to identify approximately 80 disciplinary units, or areas of study, that will be offered at the Integrated University. The goal is to expand academic opportunities and offer an exemplary educational experience for all students, while retaining expert faculty, meeting workforce needs and reducing costs by sharing programs across the partner campuses.

“Some academic programs will be delivered in person at multiple locations, others at one or two campuses, based on student demand, faculty complement, facilities and other factors. Academic hubs will be identified as coordinating points for faculty and resources in program delivery. Program structure, assessment and program-level accreditation locations and processes will be determined in the coming months.

“The developing model calls for general education courses to be delivered on all three partner campuses. A typical student at the Integrated University would take in-person courses delivered on their home campus, plus some hybrid, remote-learning or online courses with faculty based at another campus. Fully online degree programs will be offered through the “virtual campus” as well.

“Finally, both the Western and Northeastern integration teams have made a formal proposal to the NCAA to retain the full complement of intercollegiate sports on all partner campuses. We continue to pursue this path with the NCAA and are encouraged by the thoughtful response to our request. For student-athletes currently being recruited, this path would provide the ability to retain our existing sports teams.

“As you can see, creating the Integrated University is a complex and multi-faceted project. Cal U is well represented among the 400+ individuals who are involved in innovating and re-imagining student-centered higher education in Pennsylvania. Their work informs recommendations that will be shared with the Board of Governors as we seek to shape our future as a premier provider of higher education for western Pennsylvania and beyond. I am immensely proud of and thankful for their work, and I encourage all of you to stay informed as the process continues.

“Plans for both the Western and Northeastern integrations will be presented to the PASSHE Board of Governors at its upcoming meeting. Board affirmation would initiate a 60-day period for public comment, culminating in a decision by the Board at its summer meeting.

“You can expect further updates that include greater detail on the academic program array and the financial impact analysis in the coming weeks. I will keep our Cal U community informed as planning continues and opportunities for your input arise. For a deeper dive into System Redesign or to share your feedback, visit”