By John J. Sygielski, Ed. D.
President, HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College
HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, realizes a constrained fiscal environment at the state level is a factor that keeps funding for community colleges at current levels in Gov. Tom Wolf’s proposed $32.3 billion budget for 2017-18.
While we were hoping for additional state funding for HACC and the 13 other community colleges in Pennsylvania, we will work with the financial resources we receive to continue to bridge the gap between jobs demanded by business and industry to succeed in a global economy and trained employees to fill those jobs.
Community colleges are the engines of change, playing a vital role in the economic health of our communities, state and the nation. In Pennsylvania, the 14 community colleges are the largest public provider of higher education. In the 2015-16 academic year, the community colleges enrolled 326,786 students in both credit and noncredit classes. HACC, which is Pennsylvania’s oldest and largest community college, enrolled 52,955 students in credit and noncredit classes at its five campuses and community locations during the same period.
Community colleges work in partnership with business and industry to provide the training required to fill local jobs.
Community colleges partner with the nation’s greatest resource – its people – to provide opportunities for family-sustaining jobs.
Further, community colleges open their doors to everyone from all walks of life by giving the means to grow, develop and learn if the desire and determination exist.
The possibilities and opportunities are endless.
For many, community colleges are the pathway out of poverty. It may be that an older worker needs re-training or new training to better perform an existing job. Or, an employee sees an opportunity to stretch beyond a current job but needs specific skills to move up.
More often than not, community college students are juggling full-time jobs with family responsibilities at the same time they are striving to meet their educational goals.
HACC, like many community colleges, continues to experience a decrease in enrollment due to the continuing effects of the economy. Limiting tuition increases and focusing on enrollment growth while striving to minimize the increasing burden on our students remain the College's goals.
As the first in my family to earn a college degree, I know first-hand the mission, power and importance of higher education. It is a mission that I embrace with passion.
I also know that HACC and Pennsylvania’s 13 other community colleges cannot do it alone. We cannot continue to offer affordable tuition without the support of outside resources, including the state and federal governments.
Financial support for community colleges from Governor Wolf and Pennsylvania’s General Assembly is crucial to the economic well-being of our residents and the state’s economic and workforce viability.
Governor Wolf’s proposed budget is the first step in a lengthy process that involves working with the General Assembly to adopt a final state budget for 2017-18.
I urge our state legislators to consider the vital role community colleges play in Pennsylvania’s economy and to work with the Wolf administration to increase our funding in the 2017-18 budget.
It is HACC’s hope that a state plan to adequately fund higher education is implemented in the future.
HACC, Central Pennsylvania’s Community College, offers over 120 career and transfer associate degree, certificate and diploma programs to approximately 19,000 students. Also, the College serves students at its Gettysburg, Harrisburg, Lancaster, Lebanon and York campuses; through virtual learning; and via workforce development and continuing education training. For more information on how HACC is uniquely YOURS, visit hacc.edu. Also, follow us on Twitter (@HACC_info), like us on Facebook (Facebook.com/HACC64) and use #HACCNews.