HARRISBURG – The Senate sent the Governor a bill today to expand the availability of job training programs, make it easier for students to receive financial aid, protect against improper school closures and help create a better student record system across the Commonwealth, according to the bill’s sponsor, Senator Camera Bartolotta (R-46).
Senate Bill 456 would allow Private Licensed Schools, such as career and technical colleges and trade schools, to open a branch campus in a neighboring county or any other location within 60 miles of the main campus.
Under current law, schools can only establish a branch campus in the same county as the primary campus. Schools that want to open a second campus in a different county must go through the costly and time-consuming process of securing another independent license for an out-of-county location.
Bartolotta first learned of the issue when a school in Allegheny County expressed interest in opening a branch campus in Greene County.
“The limitation on the placement of branch campuses only serves to narrow the economic opportunities available to students and job-seekers,” Bartolotta said. “Our economy is constantly evolving, and trade schools and career and technical colleges play a critical role in helping the workforce to keep pace with these changes. We should encourage our best schools to open more campuses and serve more students, not bury them in mountains of red tape.”
Bartolotta’s bill would also protect students against improper closures of schools. The bill would require any potential school closures to be completed with proper notice to students, accreditors and the state, while also providing for a full teach-out, transfer and education succession plan for all enrolled students.
In addition, the legislation will help create a better system to house, maintain, and locate student records from these institutions. A centralized repository of records would be created within the state Department of Education to ensure student records are maintained in the case of a school closure or transfer. Under previous law, schools that close were required to transmit records to another school with little oversight from the state.
“Existing law has created a disorganized patchwork in which thousands of student records are either lost or extremely difficult to retrieve,” Bartolotta said. “My bill will provide a much cleaner and more accessible student record system and ensure all students are protected in the case of a school closure.”
Senate Bill 456 also gives schools the ability to provide direct institutional grants to students. In current regulatory practice, many privately licensed career and technical schools lack the authority to provide many innovative institutional grants that could help students. As a result, they have to rely on third-party non-profit organizations to provide grants, resulting in higher administrative fees, more red tape and less financial aid available for students.
“Financial aid is a big barrier for many students who want to build job skills and climb the economic ladder,” Bartolotta said. “Allowing schools to provide grants directly to students will open more doors for students in need and maximize the amount of financial aid available to students.”
The bill has been approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives and was sent to the Governor to be signed into law.
CONTACT: Colleen Greer (717) 787-1463