Empower Erie News & Updates

Erie County community college application sent to state

Posted on June 30th, 2017 at 4:16 PM
  

This article was originally written by Kevin Flowers and published on GoErie.com on June 30, 2017

Erie County’s application for a community college is on its way to Harrisburg.

Gary Lee, county government’s director of administration, said that a community college plan developed by nonprofit Empower Erie over the past several months “and all other required materials” was sent via priority mail to the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Board of Education on Friday afternoon.

The Empower Erie plan will serve as the formal application for the new school in the wake of Erie County Council’s 4-2 vote on Tuesday, with one abstention, to approve county sponsorship of a community college. Sponsorship would make county government responsible for millions of dollars annually in operating costs if the state were to approve the school.

The state’s application review process could take up to a year, officials have said.

“They should have the materials by Monday morning,” Lee said.

Lee has said that he expects a Department of Education subcommittee to start a thorough review of the community college plan, and that County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper’s administration plans to ask the state to host a public meeting in Erie County regarding its community college evaluation process.

Dahlkemper’s administration is taking the lead in presenting the community college plan to the state.

Community college supporters argue that such a school would help Erie build a skilled workforce and provide a more affordable educational option for many area residents than the region’s four-year colleges and for-profit trade schools.

 

Opponents say the school is unnecessary when local colleges and trade schools provide similar courses.

A traditional community college has not been created in Pennsylvania since 1993, when Cambria County Area Community College opened. There are 14 community colleges in Pennsylvania, funded by a combination of state funding, local dollars and student tuition.

Northwestern Pennsylvania is the largest area of the state without direct access to a community college.

Council Chairman Jay Breneman and colleagues Andre Horton, Kathy Fatica and Fiore Leone on Tuesday voted in favor of sponsoring the community college.

Council members Ed DiMattio and Carol Loll voted against sponsorship. Councilman Kyle Foust abstained because he believes his employer, Mercyhurst University, would compete with the new school.

A 2010 effort to organize a community college failed for lack of a prime financial sponsor, even after a 2009 study recommended that Erie County create one.


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