The 14 schools that make up the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education are facing major financial challenges. Declining enrollment and a drop in state funding have started discussions that include consolidation and even closing some college campuses.
Lock Haven University is looking at all options to save money and to make sure its school is viable for all students.
In 2010, about 5,400 students were enrollment at the rural campus in Clinton County. This semester 4,200 are taking classes.
In order to save money university officials are considering eliminating the men’s track and field team, but Lock Haven has a passionate group of alumni.
This week’s snow storm spawned a movement on Facebook and Twitter called the #SaveHaven Snow Angel Challenge. People are jumping into the snow in hopes of saving the program. The videos have thousands of views.
Alexis Palfey recorded her video at Mansion Park in Altoona, a place where she ran track meets for many years. She is now making a last ditch effort to save a program and a family she loves.
“Just having that type of atmosphere and that comfort and love is something I don’t know if I can truly put into words what it means to me but it’s definitely made my college experience the best,” smiled Palfey.
The #SafeHaven movement started at the PSAC indoor track and field championships. After the competition athletes from all 14 schools became one and ran around the track to make a statement.
This week the support carried into the snow. The parent of a Lock Haven alum went a little stir crazy during the Nor’Easter. So he found an old track suit and challenged others on Facebook to make snow angels in a show of support.
Many more videos have followed including one from a former LHU coach.
“We have 1,300 alumni, the most of any team at Lock Haven University and they are passionate,” said Men’s Track and Field Coach Aaron Russell.
Russell has been a part of the LHU program for nearly two decades. His athletes recently won the campus Community Service Award.
“As a program part of our identity is creating good citizens to graduate, not just good athletes,” said Russell.
He said his team has been fiscally responsible and understand the challenge the university is facing. In order to keep his beloved track and field program Russell has offered to lower his roster and even help pay for food and transportation,
“We have raised over $200,000 in the last few years for endowed scholarships, which is permanent money that keeps on giving throughout the years.”
Russell believes sports can be a great recruiting tool and that his team is worth the investment.
“We’ve tried to remain very positive throughout the whole process. Maybe I am just a bit naive but I just feel like there is no decision they can make but to keep this group of young men.”
The Lock Haven Track and Field program has been around for 111 years. A final determination on its future will be made Thursday, March 23.
Lock Haven University Athletic Proposal Statement
“Lock Haven University respects the passion of our coaches and student-athletes. Each athletic program at LHU carries a strong history and, over the years, has contributed to the University’s success.
Like many universities across the Northeast, LHU faces a decline in enrollment due to a number of factors including decreases in population and high-school graduates. Thus, the University is forced to make difficult decisions in order to remain viable for future students.
The University’s current fiscal crisis has compelled the proposed elimination of men’s indoor and outdoor track and field. A great deal of research and consideration regarding the impact to student athletes and potential cost savings went into the proposal. Along with the need to reduce costs, projected changes in student body demographics demand that the athletic department act now to remain in compliance with Title IX requirements.
This decision in no way reflects or diminishes the contributions of track and field coaches, students, and alumni whose dedication on and off the field represent the best of LHU.”