Q&A with Rep. Marcia Hahn, Community College Caucus Co-Chair

Responses provided by Rep. Marcia Hahn’s Office

Q: Why is education in Pennsylvania important to you?

A: Nelson Mandela framed the issue perfectly when he said, “Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” It is something that one can take pride in as the result of hard work and perseverance, and claim as the foundation for a fruitful, productive life.

Its value can be best measured in a story I recently read about a young man from Philadelphia who grew up living in homeless shelters, a hospital bed and motel rooms. He worked hard to get accepted into a full-scholarship boarding high school for students from single-parent families with limited financial resources.

Good grades earned him the title of class valedictorian. He applied to several schools and was accepted by Harvard. He achieved all this despite an upbringing mired in poverty.

Q: How would you describe the impact of community colleges in your district and statewide?

A: Lehigh Valley residents are fortunate to have in our backyard Northampton Community College (NCC), which serves as a shining example of what these institutions are capable of and can offer. There was a time when community colleges were known more for being simply an “affordable alternative.” They are now much more than just a place to obtain an education at a lower dollar figure.

NCC is a two-time winner of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Fund Grant, whose goal is to increase the annual number of U.S. students studying in Latin America and the Caribbean to 100,000 and bring 100,000 students to the United States by 2020.It serves more than 35,000 students a year in credit and non-credit programs and is the only community college in Pennsylvania to offer on-campus housing.

Four years ago, NCC was one of only nine colleges and universities in the country to achieve “Green Ribbon” status for stewardship of the environment and leadership in environmental education. For the last two years, NCC has been a member of the OSHA Training network for employers throughout the Northeast region.

Community colleges still offer a less expensive education than many of their counterparts. Now, they do so in addition to serving as a solid post-secondary choice and a destination for talented students who wish to better themselves.

Q: What do you believe are the biggest challenges facing community colleges in the Commonwealth?

A: I feel community colleges still must deal somewhat with the stigma of only being something more affordable. Showing that you are more than that image implies is very much an individual responsibility, which is why I am so proud to see the hard work done by Northampton Community College.

No matter the cost of a school’s tuition, debt incurred is a challenge for all students. That is why I support Gov. Tom Wolf s proposal to create a PA Tuition Assistance Program, which will help alleviate economic burdens and encourage future employment within Pennsylvania.