Pennsylvania ranks 48th in affordability for higher education in the United States
HARRISBURG — At the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges’ Annual Lobby Day at the Capitol today, students, trustees, presidents and staff from Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges joined together to advocate for an increased funding level in the 2019-20 fiscal year budget.
The budget proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf does not provide an operating or capital funding increase for the colleges, despite being the largest provider of public postsecondary education in the Commonwealth and a sector that plays a significant role in the Commonwealth’s education and workforce development systems.
“As a community college graduate, I know first-hand the great value that a community college can add to a person – it truly enables an individual to do anything,” said Andrew Helmer, vice president of Human Resources at Hershey Entertainment & Resorts and HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, graduate. “Now that I’m the vice president of Human Resources for Hershey Entertainment & Resorts, I look to community colleges to train the workers we hire.”
Pennsylvania community colleges offer high-quality education and workforce programs aligned with areas of critical workforce needs across the Commonwealth. The 14 colleges regularly consult with business partners – such as Shell in western Pennsylvania, Greiner Packaging in eastern Pennsylvania and AMES Reese in central Pennsylvania – to develop programs to meet state and local workforce needs, while fueling Pennsylvania’s economic recovery. The colleges also educate the Commonwealth’s firefighters, healthcare workers, welders and truck drivers, as well as offering much needed training in other in-demand fields.
In the 2017-18 academic year, Pennsylvania’s community colleges enrolled more than 300,000 students from all 67 counties in the state. They also provided a foundation for nearly 35,000 students who sought transfer to four-year institutions, saving these students up to $20,000 on the cost of higher education.
“When I graduated from high school in 2013, I was in the top 15 in my class. I wouldn’t be able to continue my own education if it wasn’t for academic scholarships,” said Nicole Russell, student of the Community College of Allegheny County. “If we want Pennsylvania to be a great state, we must invest in young Pennsylvanians – we are the future of this state and country. An investment in our youth starts with an investment in community colleges.”
In his budget address, Gov. Wolf indicated that Pennsylvania needs to address the skills gap to ensure that Pennsylvania has a well-trained workforce. He established a goal of 60 percent of Pennsylvania residents having some form of postsecondary education by 2025. Today, community college advocates from across Pennsylvania encouraged Gov. Wolf and policymakers to leverage the experience and expertise of community colleges to meet these goals.
In addition to today’s rally at the Capitol, Pennsylvania community college students spent the day visiting with their local legislators to advocate on behalf of the community colleges’ FY 19-20 budget request. The colleges also set up interactive displays highlighting the varied, cutting-edge programs that community college students in Pennsylvania are studying, including nursing, manufacturing and STEM programs. These interactive displays included a manufacturing simulator, health screenings by nursing students and other engaging activities.
“Pennsylvania community colleges are ready to assist individuals who want to improve their lives by earning a certificate, enrolling in technical training, attaining an associate degree or preparing for further education,” said Elizabeth Bolden, president & CEO of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges. “The colleges are committed to increasing access to quality, affordable higher education in the Commonwealth. We hope the General Assembly will support us in this mission by increasing funding for community colleges.”