Jackson resident Lauren Platt with striking West Chester University Band Director Andrew Yozviak (Lauren Platt)

HARRISBURG, Penn — Staff at 14 Pennsylvania state colleges and universities have walked off the job after negotiations for a new contract failed on Tuesday.

According to the Pennsylvania State System of High Education, students are required to report to class despite the walkout. The schools affected are Bloomsburg University, University of Pennsylvania California, Cheyney University, Clarion University, East Stroudsburg University, Edinboro University, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Kutztown University, Lock Haven University,Mansfield University, Millersville University, Shippensburg University, Slippery Rock University and West Chester University.

As of Fall 2015 4,563 New Jersey residents attend schools in the PSSHE system.

The Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, the union representing the staff and faculty at PSSHE schools, said its last-minute attempt at "back channel" talks to avert a strike failed and the job action was called at 5 a.m. on Wednesday.

Talks officially came to an end late Tuesday night when the union said PSSHE offered its "last, best offer" and was done negotiating.

"We are headed to the picket lines, but even on the picket lines, our phones will be on, should the State System decide it doesn’t want to abandon its students. They'll know where to find me at 5:30 a.m. I'll be outside the chancellor's office at the Dixon Center on the picket line," APSCUF President Dr. Kenneth M. Mash said in a statement.

"Faculty have the legal right to decline to participate in a strike and to remain in the classroom and continue their classes for their students," wrote PSSHE on its website, which said that it has a strike response plan ready. "The goal of each strike response plan is to keep the campus open, to ensure students and employees are safe, and to keep students on schedule toward the completion of their degrees," said PSSHE.

The state said overnight its latest proposal would provide raises to all permanent and temporary faculty and a health care package identical to what other system employees have. In an effort to reach an agreement, the state said it withdrew several proposals including one that would have required full-time temporary faculty to teach an additional class each semester.

"By removing many of the more contentious issues from the table, we have demonstrated our willingness to participate in the normal give-and-take of negotiations," State System spokesman Kenn Marshall said. "We believed it also would show APSCUF our eagerness to achieve a new contract. It is clear from their actions, however, that health care and salaries are the real issues in these negotiations."

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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