Newsmaker- Rick Smith

NewsMaker

Here is a complete statement on the long awaited vision of affordable secondary education. To learn more, you can visit here

More than a decade ago, several PA professionals joined forces to try and find a way to bring low-cost, high-quality post-secondary education to smaller, rural communities. Senator Joseph Scarnati recognized their efforts, and in 2009, helped establish the Educational Consortium of the Upper Allegheny (ECUA). The goal of this project was to identify and connect with higher education partners that could provide classes using interactive video technology, so as not to pull students away from their communities.

In 2012, the ECUA chose to partner with Gannon University, an accredited institution who established a portfolio of degree programs for the College. Then, in 2017, after multiple feasibility studies were performed, PA House and Senate bills proposed, and legislation enacted, an official College Plan was written and approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Education officially establishing the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College (NPRC).

From the onset of the partnership with Gannon, all courses were offered under their accreditation umbrella—meaning all curriculum and courses were Gannon’s and all instructors were approved as Gannon faculty and hired by Gannon. This allowed the NPRC to build their college infrastructure and curriculum, while validating their live classroom model.

In December 2019, NPRC ended its agreement with Gannon to begin functioning as an independent institution, allowing NPRC to pursue its own regional accreditation. The college operates across nine northern PA counties at 25 different locations, such as community education centers, career and technical centers, libraries, schools, and businesses. In Erie and Warren Counties, these locations include the A.J. Palumbo Academic Center, 4 N.I.N.E. Center in North East, Girard High School Union City High School, Corry Higher Education Council, Tidioute Community Charter School, and the Warren Forest Higher Education Council.

These sites have technology that connects a live instructor to multiple classrooms across the region via interactive television. This media-based approach enables discussion, interaction, and presentations from other students, even though not everyone is in the same physical classroom. It also eliminates many additional higher education expenses, reducing tuition to approximately one-seventh of the cost at similar institutions—without sacrificing program quality. Furthermore, students are supported throughout their educational experience by Student Success Specialists (SSS) who provide in-person support from admissions to graduation to ensure students have the resources they need to be successful.

The NPRC awards associate degrees in various disciplines, such as Social Sciences, Business Administration, Liberal Studies, Criminal Justice, and Early Childhood Education. The college also provides certificate programs and workforce development programs, such as Commercial Truck Driver, Communication Linework, Customized Training, Emergency Medical Services, Healthcare Basics, Industrial Electricity, and Powder Metal. These programs are accessible to just about anyone—recent high school graduates, high school or college non-completers, returning adults, and first-generation students.

In this way, the NPRC strives to enhance regional economic growth and civic development by meeting employers’ needs for skilled workers. This will create greater opportunities and more career and educational pathways to help retain and attract residents to the northern Pennsylvania region.

The closing of a chapter came on January 18th when NPRC honored the final group of students to successfully complete associate degrees as part of the Gannon/ECUA/NPRC partnership at their Celebration of Degree Completion. Dr. Joseph T. Nairn, NPRC Founding President, addressed the completers and called them, “Trailblazers, pioneers, and our partners in success.” He continued to state that the success of those who completed their Associate degrees “is a great source of pride and, individually and collectively, what NPRC was established for.” Now that NPRC is operating independently, students will be recognized at commencement ceremonies where they will be awarded NPRC degrees.

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