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Presidents Call for A Grassroots Movement to Support Community Colleges

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Enrollment Central

In January, President Stephen M. Curtis joined community college presidents from the region and across the state in urging Pennsylvanians to let elected officials know access to higher education must be preserved.

Curtis joined Karen A. Stout, Ed.D, president of Montgomery County Community College; Jerome S. Parker, Ph.D, president of Delaware County Community College and Stephanie Shanblatt, Ph.D, president of Bucks County Community College in penning an open letter to the community. As of Jan. 23, The Philadelphia Inquirer, the Philadelphia Tribune, the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and a variety of Delaware Valley newspapers have scheduled the letter for publication.

“Gone are the days when all that was required of a worker to succeed was to get a foot in the door and work hard,” the four presidents wrote. “Today, while hard work is still important, postsecondary education is required and frequent retraining is necessary to stay current in one’s field. In fact, it is estimated that 1.5 million job vacancies in the country consist of jobs that require more than a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree. Now, more than ever, community colleges need a grass-roots movement willing to speak up for our students and promote the benefits of educational access. After years of being severely underfunded by the state, we are struggling to meet the demands of diverse students and rapidly changing industries. In addition, many veterans returning from overseas look to community colleges for retraining and re-employment.

The letter comes ahead of Gov. Corbett’s annual budget address, which is scheduled for noon on Feb 5. Community college presidents across the state also wrote opinion columns for local newspapers as part of an effort organized by the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges.

“Maintaining affordable access to community colleges, and ensuring they have the resources to train students for 21st century jobs, cannot and should not be sacrificed in the Governor’s 2013-14 state budget,” the four presidents urged. “Colleges need the communities they serve to speak up and let elected officials know that our graduates make Pennsylvania strong. As Gov. Corbett finalizes his proposed budget we ask him to consider what’s at stake. So much hinges on equipping community colleges with much needed resources: The future competitiveness of our state, the ability for our businesses to thrive and our students to become valuable workers. In the midst of a damaging skills gap, a strategic investment into Pennsylvania’s community colleges is more important than ever. Our state cannot afford to stand idly by as the skills gap continues to widen.”

College staff are urged to join the movement to preserve access by saving the date, April 9, when students, faculty and staff make our annual trek to Harrisburg for Lobby Day.