The Essence of a Community College

Why Not Erie?A community college has a Unique Mission: Meet the higher education needs of local communities and raise educational attainment for the Knowledge Economy. The community college achieves this in several ways.

Community colleges create pathways to Bachelor’s degrees with at least 2 years, and often 3 years, of four-year degree coursework at 1/3 the tuition rate. They also offer two-year, direct job entry programs of applied learning, as well as theoretical grounding, in fields that most communities need, like nursing, business, manufacturing, and social services.

With community college as an option, students with at least a high school diploma have an opportunity to pursue college-level learning with the support of developmental work to get them up to expected performance level. Community colleges control quality through learning outcome standards, instead of entry level admission requirements.

For residents who need or desire to engage in lifelong learning, they can depend on community college to give them continuing education. Community colleges apply the intellectual capacity of a college as a community service to help address the community’s most significant issues, challenges, and opportunities.

Who Are The Stakeholders?


  • 7.3 million college credit students; 5.0 million not for college credit learners.
  • Largest single sector of higher education in the United States.
  • 45% of all undergraduates in all of the public colleges and universities
  • More than 60% of all freshman and sophomores in public colleges, in most states.
  • Average age is 28 years old (under 22 37%; 22-39 49%; over 40 14%).
  • First time in college students - 36%; single parents - 17%; students with disabilities - 12%.
  • Diverse student population nationwide: white - 49%; Hispanic - 22%; black - 14%.
  • Transfer students at high-performing community colleges complete Bachelor’s degrees at rates similar to or higher than all students at the four-year institutions with similar grade point averages.
  • Direct job entry students receive high ratings from employers for preparation and readiness on satisfaction surveys.


  • 60% of the jobs that can be obtained with a Bachelor’s degree, also can be accessed with an Associate’s degree
  • 60-65% of all jobs in the Knowledge Economy of today require a degree, certificate or other post-secondary credentials
  • Over 80% of community college graduates stay locally and contribute to the local economy
  • Local employers help shape the curriculum, recruit students and engage them in work-based learning experiences, so they are as job ready as possible upon completion


  • Community colleges are resources to assist local communities in addressing their most critical needs, problems, opportunities, and aspirations.


Empower Erie QuoteHow Do They Work?

Community Colleges constantly assess local needs and mobilize their limited resources to address those most critical to the success of the community. Every community’s resources are limited and community colleges cannot meet all needs by themselves; therefore, they partner with others - secondary schools, other higher education institutions, business and industry, governments, the social service sector and philanthropic community - to address the community’s challenges, opportunities and aspirations as effectively as possible.

The Community College is governed locally and is accountable to use their resources wisely to be as responsive as possible in addressing local needs. It teaches and practices continuous quality improvement, is data driven and strategically focused. In the communities across America that are fortunate enough to have a Community College, they are credited with lifting up the communities they serve as a source of pride, inspiration, and performance that portends a brighter future.


Our view: Don’t let rural se...

Posted on March 13th, 2018 at 12:36 PM

A community college has long been recommended in Erie County to fill a gap in the region’s education continuum and serve as a resource to local employers, especially manuf...

Our view: Budget item kindles ...

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

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 co...

Community college is vital inv...

Posted on November 5th, 2017 at 10:31 AM

Tom Hagen's op-ed in support of the community college.


Pennsylvania State Board of Ed...

Posted on September 20th, 2017 at 2:24 PM

The Special Committee of the State Board of Education (Board) established to facilitate the Board's consideration of the plan submitted by Erie County seeking to establish the E...

Erie County community college ...

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

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


Erie County Council approves c...

Posted on June 28th, 2017 at 6:15 AM

A community college plan developed by nonprofit Empower Erie over the past several months now becomes the formal application for the new school that coul...

Why we’re voting for communi...

Posted on June 27th, 2017 at 2:00 AM

This past year, our county embarked on a familiar journey toward the establishment of a community college. With the backing of Erie’s philanthropic community and County Ex...

County Executive Kathy Dahlkem...

Posted on June 14th, 2017 at 3:46 PM

County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper will host a series of events featuring County Council members and members of the Empower Erie team at local high schools. The meetings will pro...

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