WASHINGTON, Pa. -- Ten liberal arts colleges in Pennsylvania have received an $800,000 grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to create the Pennsylvania Consortium for the Liberal Arts (PCLA), an entity designed to help each institution create new cost efficiencies, improve the quality of academic and co-curricular programs, and enhance inter-institutional knowledge and collaboration. The consortium also plans to contribute in important ways to national discussions about improving access to higher education and improving affordability for families.

The 10 Pennsylvania colleges are: Bryn Mawr College, in Bryn Mawr, Pa.; Dickinson College, in Carlisle, Pa.; Franklin & Marshall College, in Lancaster, Pa.; Gettysburg College, in Gettysburg, Pa.; Haverford College, in Haverford, Pa.; Juniata College, in Huntingdon, Pa.; Muhlenberg College, in Allentown, Pa.; Swarthmore College, in Swarthmore, Pa.; Ursinus College, in Collegeville, Pa.; and Washington & Jefferson College, in Washington, Pa.

The grant, which will be expended over three years, will provide seed money for collaborative programs among the various participants. The member colleges, each with its individual assets, will contribute and benefit in ways distinct to their institutional strengths and needs. In pursuing the Mellon grant, the leaders of the institutions asserted that their first priority as a consortium "is to enhance the strong liberal arts preparation we provide our students while controlling associated costs."

“Liberal arts colleges across the country face serious challenges -- shifting demographics, student access, affordability and the pressure to keep up with new technology,” said Tori Haring-Smith, president of Washington & Jefferson College. “Bringing Pennsylvania liberal arts colleges into a consortium helps us leverage our collective strengths to better serve our students.”

The 10 consortium members will explore and develop collaborative programs in seven core areas: academic program improvement; faculty development; study abroad; library resources; administrative services; compliance and risk management; and enhancing the institutional climate for diversity.

Collaborative initiatives may include:

  • Using teleconferencing and online technology to combine under-enrolled courses at member institutions. For example, in the coming academic year Juniata, Gettysburg and Washington & Jefferson will each do the planning to allow them to offer a language course that will be shared across their campuses.
  • Training for faculty chairs of academic departments; for example, bringing faculty together with college leaders to better understand and examine financial models, workshops on teaching in a diverse classroom, using technology to enhance learning, and the evolving role of the humanities.
  • Shared study abroad sites and programs to reduce costs and expand opportunities for students.
  • Shared library resources, including the expertise of subject specialists and consulting services for such issues as disaster planning and digitization.

  • Cooperatives in areas such as health plans, branding and licensing, sustainability management, security in information technology, and purchasing.
  • Shared expertise and staffing for compliance and risk management.
  • Shared training for faculty and administrators on issues of race, gender, class and sexual orientation, as well as joint efforts to build pipelines for diverse faculty recruiting. 

“Pennsylvania enjoys an extraordinary concentration of the nation’s finest private liberal arts colleges, and working together we can all be stronger and more effective and efficient in our missions," Muhlenberg President Randy Helm said. "This consortium will serve as the foundation for new, collective institutional efforts to tackle some of the pressing issues facing higher education.”

Founded in 1832, Gettysburg College is a highly selective four-year residential college of liberal arts and sciences with a strong academic tradition. Alumni include Rhodes Scholars, a Nobel laureate, and other distinguished scholars. The college enrolls 2,600 undergraduate students and is located on a 200-acre campus adjacent to the Gettysburg National Military Park in Pennsylvania.

Posted: Wed, 16 Jul 2014

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