“Part of my job as an elected official is to make education available and accessible to all Pennsylvanians – from early childhood through postsecondary education,” said Rep. Mary Isaacson, who is a co-chair of the Community College Caucus and serving her second term as a member of the House Education Committee. “Higher education in particular can be a steppingstone to upward social and economic mobility – and the affordable, flexible training and educational programs offered by community colleges can propel students into a family-sustaining, in-demand career or prepare them for transfer to continue their postsecondary journey.”
Rep. Isaacson, who was elected state representative for the 175th District in Philadelphia in November 2018, said a variety of factors helped shape her view of higher education, including her mother being employed by a community college. She is a strong supporter of establishing a statewide dual enrollment program – which is used by high school students to earn college credit prior to high school graduation and has the potential to reduce student debt – and creating affordable postsecondary opportunities for all Pennsylvanians.
“Unfortunately, our Commonwealth has not been making the investment that Pennsylvania’s higher education sector deserves. We must adjust our funding priorities to reflect the life-changing power of postsecondary education,” explained Rep. Isaacson. “We, as legislators, must understand that our investment directly impacts college accessibility and affordability for our constituents. If we want a skilled workforce and thriving economy, we must make funding decisions that appropriately invest in higher education.”
Rep. Isaacson believes that each sector of higher education – community colleges, four-year institutions, technical schools, and other postsecondary providers – should collaborate and complement each other, rather than compete. She also highlighted how each sector plays a crucial role in ensuring the Commonwealth has a robust and well-rounded workforce that aligns with local industry needs. Short-term training provided by a community college might be a good fit for one Pennsylvanian, while others aspire to careers that require a bachelor’s degree.
In her district, Rep. Isaacson sees the role that the Community College of Philadelphia (CCP) has had in transforming lives. Specifically, she mentioned her pride at seeing a new dual enrollment partnership between Parkway Center City Middle College and CCP.
“Dual enrollment needs to be happening across our state, with community colleges as eligible providers, and supported with funding from the General Assembly,” Rep. Isaacson concluded. “Our young Pennsylvanians are buried in student debt, and dual enrollment can reduce both the cost and time of earning a postsecondary degree or credential.”