MANSFIELD -- Keep Pennsylvania's 14 state-owned universities open.
That's what officials heard Wednesday from a special consultant who studied the troubled state system of higher education.
"It definitely makes everybody feel a lot more at ease about where their job is going to be,” said Michelle Rohl, a staff member at Mansfield University.
Earlier this year, the chancellor of the state system of higher education warned big changes had to be made because of sharp cuts in state funding and declining enrollment in the state system's 14 schools, which include Lock Haven, Bloomsburg, and East Stroudsburg Universities.
Officials said they would need to consider closing or merging schools with the lowest enrollments, like perhaps Mansfield University.
"We were all kind of worried that with the closing and everything we would all have to separate, you know the friends, the groups, the people that you meet, the people that were your whole world for the past few years. So I think it's all a sigh of relief for now at least,” said Trey Gibson of Mansfield University.
A consultant delivered a report that called for state officials to change the structure of their board and focus not only on high school graduates but adults who need higher education as well.
That report also recommended changing staffing levels at schools with lower student enrollment, perhaps using early retirement plans.
“I know quite a few professors on a personal level and I know that it's more than just a student professor friendship type, a lot of them need this job,” said Moriah Seiders, a Mansfield University graduate.
Members of the board say they will take the report into careful consideration before making any final decisions about the future of the state school system.
"If the university closed, there'd be nothing left of Mansfield. We wouldn't be able to sell our house. It would be disastrous for the whole town,” said Rohl.
The board also decided on a 3.5 percent tuition hike, which is lower than the 7.5 percent members were considering. They plan to formally vote on that at a meeting Thursday.