Flat State Funding for PA Community Colleges Could Jeopardize Accessibility, Affordability
Community College presidents from around the commonwealth addressed the House Appropriations Committee during a budget hearing this week, making the case for increased funding.
Under Governor Tom Corbett’s 2013-2014 budget proposal, community colleges would receive no additional funding over last year for their operating budgets or capital projects. The presidents said that is not sustainable as their operating expenses continue to increase.
“Our increases amount to about 3 percent each year. Approximately 80 percent of our budgets are personnel, and there’s a continuing need to ensure that we have qualified individuals to teach and support our students,” said Dr. Alex Johnson, president of the Community College of Allegheny County.
The affordability and accessibility of community colleges is what draws many people to them. In the years following the recent recession community colleges have seen their highest enrollments on record. The fear is that continued flat or decreased funding will affect access.
“Certainly with respect to community colleges, given how much they cost, that affordability will be affected in some way, particularly for individuals who are poor or from underrepresented groups,” said Johnson.
The 14 community colleges in Pennsylvania are currently serving more than 429,000 students through credit programs or in noncredit workforce development programs. In addition, the colleges serve some 45,468 individuals through contracted training. Johnson said such an asset provides economic benefits.
“The return on investment, for example, for every dollar from the county or state invested in CCAC the return is about $7. 95 percent of our graduates remain in the community and take on really meaningful job opportunities,” he said.
Johnson was joined by Dr. Nick Neupauer, president of Butler County Community College; Dr. Stephan Curtis, president of the Community College of Philadelphia; and Dr. Jerry Parker, president of Delaware County Community College, in making the case for increased funding.
“I feel very very strongly that we’ve got a lot of support in the legislature,” said Johnson, “and I want to suggest that we have some support with the administration, maybe not for an increase in operating costs, but certainly in our roll to promote workforce education and training.”