Pennsylvania community college students, trustees, faculty and staff joined together at the Capitol today to advocate for an increased funding level in the 2016-17 fiscal year budget as part of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges’ annual Lobby Day.
The colleges support the budget proposed by the Wolf Administration, which suggests providing an additional $11.3 million in operations funding and $48.869 million in total capital funding for the community colleges.
“While the scope of the colleges’ efforts is wide-ranging, higher education and workforce training are at the core of every community college initiative,” said Mr. Thomas P. Leary, President of Luzerne County Community College and Board Chair of the Commission. “If the Commonwealth is to sustain its economic recovery and attract new industries, it will need to invest in the institutions and programs that provide highly skilled and trained employees to support those industries.”
The mission of Pennsylvania’s community colleges is to provide high-quality, affordable and accessible higher education and workforce training in the Commonwealth.
“Pennsylvania’s community colleges are flexible and responsive to the needs of their communities,” said Sen. Bob Mensch, co-chair of the Pennsylvania Community College Caucus. “Whether the colleges are partnering with schools in the K-12 community, other institutions of higher education, or employers, community colleges address the educational and workforce needs of all Pennsylvanians.”
In the 2014-15 academic year, Pennsylvania’s community colleges enrolled nearly 314,000 students from all 67 counties in the state, making community colleges the largest providers of higher education in Pennsylvania. In that same year, they provided a foundation for more than 34,500 students who sought transfer to four-year institutions, and provided $11.3 million in customized training which allowed Pennsylvanians to either acquire new skills or upgrade existing skills.
“Pennsylvania’s community colleges are vital to developing and growing the Commonwealth’s workforce,” said Representative Stan Saylor, Chair of the Pennsylvania House Education Committee. “By working together with employers in their region, community colleges help to ensure that Pennsylvania’s workforce has the skills and education that businesses need.”
Last week, the Commission joined with the State System of Pennsylvania to announce a statewide reverse transfer agreement, which provides an opportunity for students who have transferred from a community college in Pennsylvania to a State System university to receive an associate’s degree once they earn a total of at least 60 credits.
“Pennsylvania’s community colleges provide an accessible, high-quality, affordable education and workforce training to hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians each year,” said Representative James R. Roebuck, who serves as minority chair of the House Education Committee and is also a member of the Board of Trustees at the Community College of Philadelphia. “I will continue to work with my colleagues in the General Assembly to ensure the colleges receive adequate funding so that they may continue on their vitally important mission.”
In addition to the rally, approximately 275 Pennsylvania community college students spent the day visiting with their local legislators to advocate on behalf of the community colleges’ FY 16-17 budget request. The colleges also set up displays highlighting the varied, cutting-edge subjects that community college students in Pennsylvania are studying, including nursing, aquaponics, and STEM programs.
The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges is a voluntary membership association for Pennsylvania’s community colleges. Its members include the college presidents, members of the colleges’ boards of trustees, and key college administrators. The Commission represents the interests of and advocates for the collective needs of the community colleges to federal and state policymakers. For more information, please visit www.pacommunitycolleges.org.