Pennsylvania’s community college leaders are commending Gov. Tom Wolf’s budget proposal to provide additional state funding for the Commonwealth’s community colleges and to ensure that a community college education remains an affordable path to prosperity for students across the Commonwealth.
“Pennsylvania’s community colleges are an integral part of the Commonwealth’s education and workforce development systems,” said Dr. Nick Neupauer, President of Butler County Community College and Board Chair of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges. “Gov. Wolf’s budget proposal recognizes the benefits of supporting community colleges, including increased opportunities for students, expansion of industry-aligned job training programs and an overall positive return on investment for Pennsylvania’s taxpayers.”
Gov. Wolf’s budget recommends an additional $15 million in the community college operating appropriation for FY 15-16, a 7 percent increase over the previous fiscal year. The proposed funding level begins to reverse the effects of the dramatic funding reduction to the colleges in FY 2011-12 and the failure of the appropriation to keep pace with inflation.
“These additional funds will enable colleges to continue offering academic and technical training programs that enhance opportunities for students and meet state and local workforce needs.” Neupauer said. “They will also ensure that access to a quality postsecondary education is not compromised. The colleges look forward to working with Governor Wolf and the General Assembly to make this budget proposal a reality.”
Last year, Pennsylvania’s community colleges awarded over 14,000 associate’s degrees, and 2,700 other awards. Over 54 percent of these degrees and awards were in STEM-related fields, one of the fastest growing sectors of Pennsylvania’s economy.
“Strategic investments in Pennsylvania’s community colleges can support students and spur economic growth throughout the Commonwealth,” said Elizabeth Bolden, President & CEO of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, the nonprofit entity that represents the interests of the state’s 14 community colleges. “This recommended funding level is a step in the right direction.”
In 2013-2014, Pennsylvania’s community colleges provided customized training for nearly 38,000 Pennsylvania workers through partnerships with employers and other organizations, including the Workforce and Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania, or WEDnetPA. WEDnetPA is also slated to receive an increase in funding in Governor Wolf’s budget proposal.
“Pennsylvania’s community colleges stand ready to serve as an adaptable, cost-effective partner to any organization that needs assistance in making Pennsylvania’s workforce the envy of the nation.” Bolden said.
“The colleges are also pleased that Gov. Wolf’s budget includes support for dual enrollment, a proven strategy for students to get an early start on earning college credit, saving them both time and money as they pursue a postsecondary education.” Neupauer said.For more information, visit the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges website.