For Immediate Release
Sen. Mensch’s Remarks
Harrisburg – State Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24) joined students and supporters of Pennsylvania community colleges at the state Capitol today to urge support for legislation aimed at improving access to the affordable higher education provided by such institutions.
Mensch joined members of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, made up of community college presidents, boards of trustees members and key college administrators who advocate for Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges.
The colleges saw a surge in enrollment following the recession and are currently serving more than 429,000 students through credit programs or in noncredit workforce development courses. However, state funding has remained flat.
Among the bills advocates are supporting is Senate Bill 360, sponsored by Senator Mensch to create the Pennsylvania Community College Affordability Task Force to examine and make recommendations regarding the viability and sustainability of the current community college funding model, accessibility of community college services across the commonwealth, and the long-term affordability and accessibility of a community college education.
“Community colleges are currently funded through a formula that aims to keep student tuition at no more than one-third of the educational cost. The remainder comes from state funding and local sources,” Mensch said. “With difficult economic times and budget restraints in the local share and state funding, the financial burden is placed on the student.”
Mensch noted that Montgomery County Community College recently approved an 8 percent increase in tuition and fees. With the increase, student tuition will make up more than 55 percent of the college’s operating budget, up from 36 percent a decade ago.
“Community colleges are a vital component of the Commonwealth’s workforce development continuum. They are a unique link between a student and the workplace in how responsive and flexible they can be in addressing the educational needs of a local community. We need to ensure their vitality within communities and their ability to grow local workforces,” he said.
Under Senate Bill 360, the 19-member Pennsylvania Community College Affordability Task Force will include the Secretary of Education, members appointed by the governor and legislators, local officials and representatives of community colleges.
In addition to the funding formula, the task force will also consider the various components of the community college mission, including open access and workforce development. Its report will be due to the governor and General Assembly within 180 days of the first meeting.
Another measure championed by supporters is House Bill 1279 establishing a separate Community College Capital Fund in the State Treasury.
“Pennsylvanians who obtain education through community colleges address needed skill sets that allow them to remain marketable and relevant in the workplace,” said Mensch. “The role of these institutions is too important to allow them to be priced beyond the reach of Pennsylvanians who rely on them.”