The Department of Education has taken steps to establish Pennsylvania’s first Rural Regional Community College, announced Senate President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati (R-Jefferson), Sen. Bob Robbins (R-Mercer) and Sen. Scott Hutchinson (R-Venango).
According to the legislators, the newly created community college is being established with the goal of offering two-year associate degrees, as well as training and certificate programs to underserved areas of the Commonwealth. Curriculum of the college will be determined by the Board of Trustees, based upon the future workforce needs of the designated region of Cameron, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, McKean, Potter, Venango and Warren counties.
“I am very excited that groundwork for launching the Rural Regional Community College is now in place,” Sen. Scarnati stated. “This will be the first community college to offer greatly needed higher educational opportunities to northwestern Pennsylvania. Thanks to input by education, business and community leaders, we have been able to establish a solid foundation for helping students have access to quality, affordable education near their hometowns.”
“This will certainly expand the educational options for students in our region,” Sen. Robbins said. “Education is the key to success, and a two-year college program is an excellent option for young people who are looking at job opportunities in many career fields. The truth is it’s also a cost-effective way for students to complete their basic studies at a smaller college before finishing their degree at a larger university.”
“I’m thrilled with the rapid progress on the Rural Regional Community College and I’m grateful for Sen. Scarnati’s leadership in making this concept a reality,” Sen. Hutchinson said. “The positive effects this college will have on our region cannot be understated – there is an immediate need for quality career and technology education in many rural areas of the Commonwealth. The Rural Regional Community College will help residents of our area get the training and education they need to continue working and living right here in our community.”
Sen. Scarnati explained that earlier this year, language from his Senate Bill 1000 to establish the rural regional community college initiative was included in the Fiscal Code (Act 126 of 2014). Senate Bill 1000 was a bipartisan initiative, based largely on recommendations by a Legislative Budget and Finance Committee study completed in December 2011.
On August 1st, the Secretary of the Department of Education appointed the Educational Consortium of Upper Allegheny as the non-profit entity to assist with designating the community college region to be served, as well as advising PDE on the appointment of members of the Board of Trustees. Dr. Dick McDowell, Chairman of the ECUA Board of Trustees stressed the importance of the new community college.
“Providing people with access, affordability and articulation that a community college can offer will be a tremendous asset to rural Pennsylvania,” Dr. McDowell said. “We are pleased to work with the Pennsylvania Department of Education to provide advice to help develop a rural higher education system that offers greater accessibility for students at affordable rates.”
Earlier this month, the following 15 individuals were named to serve on the Board of Trustees by PDE Secretary Carolyn Dumaresq--
-- Ms. Mary Bula, Collective Impact at United Way of Erie County
-- Ms. Nancy Decker, Laurel Technical Institute
-- Mrs. Amanda Hetrick, Forest Area School District
-- Mr. Robert Kaemmerer, United Refining Company
-- Mr. Hank LeMeur, Superior Tire and Rubber Company
-- Mrs. Kate Lomax-Brock, Elk Cameron Community Education Council
-- Mr. Greg Mahon, Office of the Senate President Pro Tempore
-- Dr. Richard McDowell, President Emeritus University of Pittsburgh at Bradford
-- Mr. Douglas Morley, Potter County Commissioner
-- Mr. Ed Pitchford, Cole Memorial Hospital
-- Mr. Louis Radkowski, City of Saint Marys
-- Mrs. Susan Snelick, North Central Workforce Investment Board
-- Dr. Karen Whitney, Clarion University
-- Mr. Dennis Wilke, Precision Manufacturing Institute
-- The Honorable Mary Jo White, Former State Senator
Term length of the Board members will be determined at the first Board of Trustees meeting scheduled for December 2, 2014. The meeting will be open to members of the public and the location of the meeting will be determined by PDE in the coming days.
The Senators also recognized the contributions of members of the House of Representatives who worked on the measure, especially Rep. Martin Causer (R-Cameron) who introduced a companion bill to Senate Bill 1000, which also sought to establish a rural community college program.“Thanks to the efforts and input of numerous educational, business, community and government leaders, we are now helping to provide students with more tools they can use to access good, family-sustaining jobs. We look forward to witnessing the positive impacts of the college in the years to come.”