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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Rural Community College Initiative to be
Topic of State Senate Public Hearing

HARRISBURG - A Senate proposal to increase post-secondary educational opportunities to underserved counties in the Commonwealth through the creation of a Rural Community College Initiative will receive an in-depth review by the Senate Education Committee, senators Mike Folmer and Joe Scarnati announced today.

The committee hearing will focus on understanding the need for rural regional community colleges and how to best support and implement these institutions. The measure to be examined is Senate Bill 1000, which was introduced by Scarnati earlier this year. SB 1000 would help to create a public community college initiative in rural Pennsylvania.

“Education is a vital component of providing for Pennsylvania’s future,” Scarnati stated. “We want to help provide cost effective educational opportunities to students so that they have the necessary skills to meet the demand for new jobs.”

Scarnati explained that Senate Bill 1000 is a bi-partisan measure which is based largely on recommendations by a Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) study completed in December 2011.

Senate Resolution 147 of 2011 called upon the LBFC to examine public community college programs in rural counties. The LBFC study concluded that there is a significant need for public community college programs in rural Pennsylvania. According to the report, by 2018 most jobs will require post-secondary education training, however 25 of the 26 rural counties in Pennsylvania have no community college programs.

“Community colleges provide an affordable and accelerated higher education opportunity for our citizens, and especially in times of a down economy, provide the training and courses needed for specialized and in demand professions,” Folmer said. “I am interested in learning more about the need for rural regional community colleges and how Pennsylvanians in rural areas can have access to this type of higher education.”

Testifiers at the October 2nd hearing will include the North Central Workforce Investment Board, American Refining Group Inc., Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Rural Community College Alliance.

“Currently over one third of Pennsylvania counties have no community college program to offer local residents,” Scarnati stated. “Providing rural communities with access to affordable higher education is critical to providing new career opportunities for students and improving the economy.”

Scarnati stressed that in the current job market higher education in the form of skilled training, certificate courses, two-year and four-year degree programs are all crucial to preparing students for future employment opportunities or to retrain them for new jobs.

“Senate Bill 1000 will help set the foundation for establishing rural public community college opportunities in Pennsylvania,” Scarnati said. “We look forward to hearing from testifiers and interested parties with ideas of how we can best serve the educational needs of students in rural areas.”

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