HARRISBURG, Pa., April 27 /PRNewswire/ -- Community college leaders gathered at the Capitol today to AdvancePA and launch a new statewide campaign that calls on policymakers and candidates to make expanding opportunities at community colleges an economic priority in Pennsylvania. They also voiced their concerns about the role these accessible and affordable education options can, and should, play in strengthening the economy and quality of life throughout the state.
The cornerstone of the event was the release of a new statewide survey by Zogby International that demonstrates the extraordinary depth of support and great demand that community colleges enjoy in Pennsylvania. "We were gratified to learn that eight in ten Pennsylvania adults agree that community colleges should be given more resources," said Dr. Jerry Parker, President of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges (PACCC). "Today we ask our state leaders and those who would seek office to listen to their constituents, who overwhelmingly appreciate, need and expect more from our colleges."
Diane Bosak, Executive Director of PACCC, said, "Our 14 community colleges and their nearly 26 campuses and 79 sites are economic engines for Pennsylvania, providing 400,000 people of all ages and walks of life with educational and economic opportunity. Pennsylvania needs its community colleges to educate and prepare students with skills for today's jobs and a better state economy."
Lawmakers, candidates and all state residents were reminded that:
- 1 out of 5 Pennsylvania undergraduates attends a community college.
- Students can choose from almost 1,400 programs of study during the 2009-2010 academic year.
- 4 out of 5 students are enrolled in workforce development courses to increase their workforce skills.
This year, community colleges across the state experienced an unprecedented influx of students of all ages seeking access to affordable, quality education as a solution to workforce training, job re-entry and life skills development.
"Pennsylvania community colleges make higher education possible for those who would otherwise miss out," said Dr. Anna Weitz, President of Reading Area Community College. "While we are thrilled that community colleges are no longer the best kept secret in the state, we simply don't have the facilities or capacity to meet the demand from Pennsylvanians."
"Today, in sharing the polling results, we gave state lawmakers the opportunity to hear that their constituents have benefited from and support community colleges, and that they want community colleges to be a top a priority in this year's state budget. Without support from state leaders, community colleges will be forced to turn away Pennsylvanians who seek education and economic opportunity," Dr. Jerry Parker added. "Turning our backs on these citizens who seek to improve their lives and contribute to their communities is just not an option."
Community colleges are sharing information with legislators about their impact on students and in their communities. Policymakers will be learning that programs offered at Pennsylvania's community colleges vary based upon the regional needs of employers and workforce trends, and each year, programs are modified or retired if they are no longer relevant. For example, during the 2009-2010 academic year a total of 84 new or redesigned programs are being offered.
"The number of unskilled jobs in our state has declined steadily over the past several decades. With this changing work environment there is a greater need for skilled workers with certifications and at least an associate degree," said Dr. Weitz.
The Zogby survey also indicated the solid reputation that PA's community colleges have developed among adults, with about nine in ten expressing a favorable opinion of them. The poll also singles out the importance of the services provided, as nearly all agree that the type of job training and education programs provided by such colleges is important to the economy, with two-thirds in strong agreement. Training for students who want to go into a career that requires special training but does not require a four-year degree should be of high priority for Pennsylvania's community colleges, according to nine in ten Pennsylvania residents, with about the same number putting a high priority on providing state and local businesses with a trained workforce.
From now until Election Day, AdvancePA will be educating current policymakers as well as Gubernatorial and Legislative candidates, the media and public about how community colleges support Pennsylvania's citizens by providing education and skills for a brighter future. For more information about the AdvancePA campaign, visit: www.advancepa.net
Contact: Kelly Houtz 717-232-7584
SOURCE Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges