Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24) has spent nearly a decade serving as co-chair for the Community College Caucus in Pennsylvania, and he has been a Caucus member even longer. If you ask him why, Sen. Mensch praises the three community colleges in his district and commends their positive impact on the counties he serves.
However, Sen. Mensch sees these institutions as more than powerful economic engines. He sees how higher education can offer pathways to prosperity for his constituents, and that is a vision he supports.
“Higher education has never been more critical for Pennsylvanians than it is right now. Postsecondary degrees, credentials or training can increase earning power, allow for upward mobility, and offer security to families who might otherwise struggle,” said Sen. Mensch. “For many, the flexibility and affordability of community college makes higher education attainable. Whether the person is training to enter the workforce or building the basis for further education, community colleges meet a critical need in our Commonwealth.”
Statewide, community colleges partner with more than 1,800 employers to train students for in-demand, family-sustaining local jobs, creating workforce pipelines that are advantageous for businesses and beneficial for Pennsylvanians. In addition, more than 30,000 students transfer from Pennsylvania community colleges each year. Those who transfer to baccalaureate-granting institutions save at least $20,000 on the cost of higher education by starting at community college.
“I’m motivated to improve access to postsecondary education for reasons that go beyond just a higher paycheck. In my experience, individuals who avail themselves of higher education find greater satisfaction in life in general. It creates a momentum that can propel people into future happiness and success,” explained Sen. Mensch.
And Sen. Mensch is correct. Obtaining a degree or postsecondary credential can be life-changing for students. Not only does a degree increase an individual’s economic earning power and possibilities for career advancement, degree attainment is positively correlated with a wide range of personal and societal benefits. The Lumina Foundation has published research that shows that individuals with at least an associate degree are more likely to remain employed and to have a career that provides health insurance and retirement benefits. In their personal lives, they are more likely to report they are in good health, more likely to vote, volunteer, donate to charitable causes, and their children are more likely to continue their education past the high school level.
“The pandemic has impacted every individual and industry, and certainly community colleges are no exception. I strongly believe that the path to economic recovery in Pennsylvania lies, in part, in the education and training opportunities offered by community colleges,” concluded Sen. Mensch.
The bi-cameral, bi-partisan Community College Caucus was established in the House in 2005 and expanded to the Senate in 2009, in order to provide information and research to members of the General Assembly on issues relating to Pennsylvania’s community colleges and the communities, students and employers they serve. Co-chairs serve a two-year term.
Senators interested in joining the Community College Caucus should contact Ms. Madison Scarfaro in Sen. Mensch’s office at 215-541-2388. House members interested in joining the Caucus should contact Ms. Gail Pakosky in Rep. Mako’s office at 717-783-8572.