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Bucks students lobby for more community college funding

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Bucks County Community College President Stephanie Shanblatt, other administrators, and students took part in the Pennsylvania Commission for Community College’s annual Lobby Day in Harrisburg Tuesday, April 9, to advocate for more funding for community colleges throughout the state.

They were among students, trustees, presidents and staff from Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges, all advocating for an increased funding level in the 2019-20 fiscal year budget. Pennsylvania ranks 48th in affordability for higher education in the United States.

The budget proposed by Gov. Tom Wolf does not provide an operating or capital funding increase for the colleges, despite being the largest provider of public postsecondary education in the Commonwealth and a sector that plays a significant role in the Commonwealth’s education and workforce development systems.

The 14 colleges regularly consult with business partners – such as Shell in western Pennsylvania, Greiner Packaging in eastern Pennsylvania and AMES Reese in central Pennsylvania – to develop programs to meet state and local workforce needs, while fueling Pennsylvania’s economic recovery. The colleges also educate the Commonwealth’s firefighters, health-care workers, welders and truck drivers, and offer training in other in-demand fields.

In the 2017-2018 academic year, Pennsylvania’s community colleges enrolled more than 300,000 students from all 67 counties in the state. They also provided a foundation for nearly 35,000 students who sought transfer to four-year institutions.

In his budget address, Wolf indicated that Pennsylvania needs to address the skills gap to ensure that Pennsylvania has a well-trained workforce. He established a goal of 60 percent of Pennsylvania residents having some form of postsecondary education by 2025.

During Lobby Day, community college advocates from across Pennsylvania encouraged Wolf and policymakers to leverage the experience and expertise of community colleges to meet these goals.

In addition to attending the rally at the Capitol, Pennsylvania community college students spent the day visiting with their local legislators to advocate on behalf of the community colleges’ fiscal year 2019-2020 budget request. The colleges also set up interactive displays highlighting the varied, cutting-edge programs that community college students in Pennsylvania are studying, including nursing, manufacturing and STEM programs.


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