Community College Students, Local Business Leaders: Community College Workforce Training Will Get People Back to Work
Hundreds of students, presidents, trustees and stakeholders rally at the State Capitol for increased state investment
From Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, Harrisburg, PA – Nearly 400 community college students and supporters rallied today at the State Capitol in Harrisburg saying that Governor Corbett’s budget proposal fails to remedy the skills gap and will ultimately slow Pennsylvania’s recovery.
In the governor’s FY 12-13 budget, community college budgets would be reduced by an estimated 5 percent and, for the fourth year in a row, community colleges will not receive new dollars for capital funding. Capital funding is used by the colleges to update labs, equipment and classrooms to train students for jobs.
“The cuts the governor is proposing for the colleges will have adverse effects on our students, our institutions and the commonwealth as a whole,” Dr. Alex Johnson, president of the Community College of Allegheny County and president of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, said in his remarks. “This state will not be able to sustain economic growth without an educated and trained workforce, and Pennsylvania’s community colleges are essential for getting people back to work and speeding up Pennsylvania’s recovery.”
Collectively, the 14 community colleges have a list of shovel-ready projects that exceeds $100 million. The projects range from modernizing science labs to creating new learning environments for students to be trained and educated in industries like Marcellus Shale, advanced manufacturing, energy and healthcare. These types of jobs are in emerging industries where businesses are looking to hire highly skilled and educated employees.
Not one of these projects will move forward under the governor’s budget proposal.
Dr. Johnson noted that business leaders across the state say that their primary concern is having highly skilled workers to power their companies, and they ask community colleges to design courses and curricula around their needs for workers. However, funding limitations have forced community colleges to deny many of these requests.
For example, it is estimated that there will be nearly 7,000 annual job openings in the specialized healthcare industry, and five of Pennsylvania’s community colleges have been asked to develop or expand courses to train students to fill these jobs. Unfortunately, budget constraints have not allowed colleges to meet this need.
“As good as our colleges are in responding to our local employers and providing opportunities and pathways for our students, we cannot continue to do it all without the state as our partner,” Dr. Johnson said.
Community college supporters also questioned why the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) and the state-related universities are slated to receive significant new capital dollars in the governor’s budget to update their classrooms and equipment, but community colleges will not receive any new dollars.
In Budget Secretary Zogby’s mid-year briefing, he highlighted the state’s commitment to the PASSHE and state-related universities at $150 million of capital budget funding. In the governor’s proposed budget for FY 12-13, he included a number of projects for these institutions—including $225 million for PASSHE universities and $70 million for the state-related universities.
“I speak on behalf of the 500,000 community colleges students across the state when I remind the governor that our institutions and our students have the same needs as our peers at Temple or Shippensburg. Our buildings, too, need to be repaired, our equipment needs to be updated and our students deserve to be educated in classrooms with the appropriate and necessary technologies to prepare them for the workforce,” Dr. Johnson said.
The 14 community colleges have requested $10 million in capital funding that will allow the $100 million in shovel ready projects and other emergency projects to proceed. This request is comparable to the amount the governor and Secretary Zogby are providing for the other institutions.
Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges serve students from every county of the state. The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges is a volunteer membership association for Pennsylvania’s community colleges. Its members include the college presidents, members of colleges’ boards of trustees and key college administrators. The Commission represents the interests and advocates the collective needs of the community colleges to federal and state policymakers. For more information, please visit www.pacommunitycolleges.org.
Jamie Yates, Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges