Governor Rendell Names Joe Torsella to Lead Commonwealth's Efforts to Increase College Graduation Rates, Access

Jun 10, 2010, 14:31 ET from Pennsylvania Office of the Governor

HARRISBURG, Pa., June 10 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Governor Edward G. Rendell today named State Board of Education Chairman Joseph Torsella to lead Pennsylvania's participation in a 22-state initiative to significantly increase the number of students who complete college with a degree, and to make college more accessible to traditionally underrepresented populations. 

The announcement comes the same day that Torsella discussed state-level and campus-specific goals to improve both college access and completion with more than 50 college presidents at the Governor's Conference on Higher Education, being held in Lancaster today and tomorrow. The conference, themed "Rising to the 2020 Challenge," is focusing on how Pennsylvania is joining the national effort to expand access and success in education beyond high school, and exploring ways the commonwealth and individual institutions of higher education can work together. 

"Joe Torsella is the right leader to connect our state-level efforts with this national momentum, and to bring together the people who will accelerate our progress," said Governor Rendell.

Complete College America is a 22-state effort to significantly increase college completion rates by 2020.

"Pennsylvania's long-term economic competitiveness depends on having a well-educated, highly skilled workforce," Governor Rendell said. "That workforce increasingly requires a postsecondary degree, but too many of our students are falling short. This must change, and it is changing. We've come a long way, but there still is much more to do. Joe's efforts will accelerate that."

Torsella's work will build upon the steps Pennsylvania has taken in recent years to make a college degree more attainable, including working with public colleges to control tuition increases, simplifying the process for transferring college credits so transfer students can avoid the costly, time-consuming process of retaking courses, and targeting efforts to increase college access to low-income and other underrepresented populations.

"Just as the Governor's Conference is bringing urgency to college access and completion efforts across Pennsylvania, Complete College America is an opportunity to harness collective state action to meet the President's 2020 goal of making the U.S. first in the world in the proportion of young adults with college degrees," Torsella said.  

"I look forward to working with Joe to continue the strong commitment to bold reforms that will dramatically improve performance at our colleges and universities – and success for our students in their lives and careers," acting Secretary of Education Thomas E. Gluck said.

Participation in Complete College America will provide Pennsylvania with support to implement a range of proven strategies that bring needed changes in the culture and practices of its public postsecondary institutions. To be a member of the alliance, a state – in partnership with its colleges and universities – must pledge to make college completion a top priority and commit to:

  • Setting state and campus-specific degree and credential completion goals;
  • Developing and implementing aggressive state and campus-level action plans for meeting the state's completion goals; and
  • Collecting and reporting common measures of progress toward the state's completion goals.

"Today's conversation at the Governor's Conference underscored the hard work already underway across Pennsylvania, and points to the progress we can make simply by listening to and learning from one another," said Torsella.  "From efforts at Delaware County Community College to develop connections among high school, vocational and postsecondary programming to the leadership of our State System of Higher Education to couple state resources with ambitious performance goals, the ingredients for sustained, statewide gains are within our grasp."

As chair of the State Board, Torsella focused attention on postsecondary policy challenges by commissioning a report on the cost of higher education in Pennsylvania and forming a standing board task force on college access and affordability.  

Torsella said his goal as chair of the commonwealth's Complete College America effort is to redouble the board's commitment to postsecondary access and "give every young person the chance to attend and the ability to afford the post-high school education that is a prerequisite for success in the 21st Century."

For more information on Complete College America, including state-specific data, visit

For more information, visit

Media Contacts:

Steve Weitzman, Department of Education; 717-783-9802

Gary Tuma, Governor's Office; 717-783-1116

SOURCE Pennsylvania Office of the Governor