Hundreds of students, trustees, faculty and staff from Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges joined together at the Capitol Tuesday to advocate an adequate funding level in the upcoming FY 14-15 budget as part of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges’ annual Lobby Day.
The colleges are asking for a $15 million increase in state funding in this year’s budget, which will allow them to continue to offer quality academic and workforce programming.
“Pennsylvania’s community colleges play a key role in the state’s education and workforce development systems,” said Dr. Nick Neupauer, President of Butler County Community College and Board Chair for the Commission. “The colleges offer accessible, affordable, high quality education and workforce programs in communities across the state and contribute to the Commonwealth’s economic growth and global competitiveness. The colleges depend on state appropriations to continue their work and to ensure that a postsecondary education remains an affordable option for thousands of students across the Commonwealth.”
In the 2013-14 academic year, Pennsylvania’s community colleges enrolled 344,000 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 25,000 students who sought transfer to four-year institutions, and provided workforce training for more than 38,000 Pennsylvanians to either acquire new skills or upgrade existing skills.
“Community Colleges are an affordable launching pad for students as they begin their pathway to a career,” said Sen. Lisa Boscola (D-Lehigh), Minority Chair of the Senate Community College Caucus. “They are also a re-launching pad for individuals that have to change careers, or need continued learning at any age. So I will continue to work with the Community Colleges Commission and my colleagues here in Harrisburg, to find adequate funding solutions and resources for these invaluable schools.”
Community colleges provide an estimated $41.84 in direct and indirect economic benefits for each dollar in public investment by the state’s taxpayers, which Sen. Lloyd Smucker (R-Lancaster) calls “one of the greatest returns on investment of any educational institution.”
“Community colleges are connecting students with jobs,” said Smucker. And not just any jobs—to high-paying, high-priority jobs, where employers are struggling to find skilled workers. Community colleges are one of the most powerful engines of economic development in Pennsylvania.”
Rep. Jim Marshall (R-Beaver) serves as the Republican Chair of the House Community College Caucus, and voiced his support for the colleges. “It is clear that community colleges are a cost-effective gateway to future success for countless students across the Commonwealth,” said Rep. Marshall.
In addition to the rally, approximately 300 Pennsylvania community college students spent the day visiting with their local legislators to advocate on behalf of the community colleges’ FY 14-15 budget request.
The colleges also set up displays highlighting the varied, cutting-edge subjects that community college students Pennsylvania are studying, including 3-D printing, unmanned aerial vehicles, teaching STEM through guitar-making, and a robot that students have programmed to do a variety of movements, including the “Thriller” dance.For more information, visit the PA Commission for Community Colleges website.