ERIE, Pa. - The Erie School District Board of School Directors unanimously supported a resolution tonight in support of establishing a community college in Erie County.
The resolution sets out a plan for collaboration between community college organizers and Erie School District for dual enrollment, allowing high school students to earn college credits. Empower Erie Board Chair, Ron DiNicola, presented to the Board of School Directors last week.
In his remarks before the Board of School Directors tonight, Superintendent Jay Badams voiced his strong support for the community college. “It is an exciting opportunity to bring a community college to Erie,” said Badams.
“In these challenging times, the potential for a community college is a positive development on the horizon for Erie students,” said Bob Casillo, Erie School Director who sponsored the resolution. “Tonight’s resolution sets a pathway for optimism among our school leaders and community members.”
DiNicola noted the opportunities for collaboration through dual enrollment programs and shared facilities at Erie School District skills training facilities at Erie Central Career & Technical School. DiNicola lauded the Directors for their leadership on the issue and their recognition of the strong correlation between educational attainment and employment.
“The Erie School District Board of School Directors recognizes the urgent need for open-access, affordable higher education for Erie County high school students and deserve applause for enthusiastically supporting a community college,” said Ron DiNicola, Empower Erie Chairperson. “A large majority of Erie county residents agree that it's time that our students had access to the same affordable, higher-education opportunities as students enjoy across the state.
“Harvard researchers also estimate that 60% of the new jobs expected to be created in the US in the next 10 years will require an associate‘s degree or certificate," continued DiNicola. "The Board’s continued support of Empower Erie’s efforts to help raise attainment levels in Erie County is energizing and further affirms that Erie is ready for a community college.”
Advanced manufacturers in Erie County estimate that 50% of their workforce will retire in the next ten years. Most of those jobs will require post-secondary training, but not a bachelor’s degree. A community college’s unique mission is to meet the higher education needs of local communities and raise educational attainment for existing and future economy.
Nearly 3 in 4 residents surveyed last month believe there are enough potential students in Erie county to support a community college, and a strong majority (77%) feel it’s "important" or "very important" for a community college to be involved in local economic development.
In September 2016 The Erie Community Foundation, The Susan Hirt Hagan Fund for Transformational Philanthropy and the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority jointly awarded $300,000 to Empower Erie to study the feasibility of creating a stand-alone community college for Erie. Upon approval of the results of the study, another $3.7 million will be available to Empower Erie to implement the Community College plan.