Empower Erie News & Updates

Our view: Budget item kindles community college hopes

Posted on March 2nd, 2018 at 12:45 PM
  

This article was originally written by GoErie Editorial Board and published on GoErie.com on March 2, 2018

A $10 million line item in the state’s capital fund budget holds promise for Erie County’s community college quest.

As Erie Times-News reporter Matthew Rink detailed, the state last fall authorized $10 million in the Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program for Erie County’s proposed community college. And this week the county took the next step and submitted a request for $3.5 million of that funding.

Gary Lee, director of administration for County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper, said the money would be matched with $3.7 million that was committed previously by the Erie Community Foundation and used to create the college’s physical location, either by building a new facility or renovating an existing structure.

The community college remains far from assured. Although the money has been authorized in the capital fund budget, Gov. Tom Wolf must approve its release. Also, the application for the college remains pending before a special subcommittee of the Pennsylvania Board of Education.

Lee said the county recently submitted a 31-page report to address 25 questions raised by those weighing the bid. In that submission, it argued the need for an Erie County community college is now more urgent since Edinboro University of Pennsylvania stopped operating its Porreco College as a community college.

 

Wolf’s administration has lately lavished legitimate praise on Erie leaders for coming together to identify the region’s priorities and needs and speaking in one voice when seeking state assistance. This moment — as Erie seeks to carve out a new reason for being in the global economy and reverse lethal demographic trends — demands this savvy, disciplined and earnest mobilization. The state should note that business and civic leaders alike have identified the need in Erie County for a community college that is affordable, accessible and nimble enough to meet changing needs of local employers, especially advanced manufacturers.

The educational landscape in Pennsylvania is changing. The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which includes Edinboro, is working to find new paths to viability in face of declining enrollments and increased costs. The University of Pittsburgh at Titusville just announced its plans to refashion that campus into a hub that can act as a community college, a pipeline to four-year degrees and a training resource for local employers.

Erie, the fourth largest city in the state, still boasts impressive manufacturing employment. It is carving a niche as a hub for both education and medicine. With expansion of Erie Insurance and the creation of the Downtown Erie Innovation District focused on security, intelligence and safety, the need for a full complement of educational opportunities to cultivate a workforce prepared to fill those jobs only grows. The state should approve and fund the community college.


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