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New Report: In Pennsylvania, Community Colleges, Other Workforce Entities the Best Way to Ensure Higher Education for Adults

Press Release:

2/3rd’s of 2020 Workforce Already Out of High School
In Pennsylvania, Community Colleges, Other Workforce Entities the Best Way to Ensure Higher Education for Adults

In today’s troubled economy, access to good jobs and wages has become more important than ever, creating another reason for Pennsylvania to take action to ensure more students can afford and access community college education and the increased earnings potential it provides. In a new report, “Pennsylvania’s Workforce: The Role of Community Colleges,” PathWays PA examines the impact that community colleges and other workforce development can have on the earnings of Pennsylvanians.

“We know that community colleges are not and should not be the only method of workforce development in the state,” said Carol Goertzel, President/CEO of PathWays PA. “However, as more people are being laid off or underemployed, they need access to educational and technological experiences in order to find family-sustaining jobs. Community colleges and other workforce entities are already offering this access, but there is more that can be done.”

While many students enter college straight from high school, a growing number of students need access to higher education after they have already entered the workforce. Nationally, 2/3rds of the 2020 workforce has already graduated from high school, but they have not all gone on to higher education. Pennsylvania ranks 3rd highest in the country for the number of adults (age 18-64) whose formal education ended with a high school diploma or GED.

“Unfortunately, whether they work in a factory or in the healthcare field, this generation of workers is more likely to need some post-secondary education to earn a family-sustaining wage,” notes Goertzel. “It doesn’t have to be a four-year degree, but more jobs require some college or a specialized certificate in order to qualify for work.”

By 2014, 51 percent of all jobs in Pennsylvania will require some college, though not a four-year degree (also known as “middle skills” education). As of 2008, only 22 percent of Pennsylvanians age 25 and over fit into the middle skills category.

“Pennsylvania’s Workforce: The Role of Community Colleges” examines the needs of adult workers in Pennsylvania and the part that community colleges can play in serving those needs. Many state community colleges are already working to make their schools as affordable and accessible to students as possible. However, many Pennsylvania counties (especially those in the northern and central areas of the state) have no access to a community college. Also, while community colleges rank high in affordability compared to public and private four-year institutions, tuition at Pennsylvania’s community colleges is among the most expensive in the country.

Among recommendations made in “Pennsylvania’s Workforce: The Role of Community Colleges” are the following:

Affordability
• Ensure all community college students can attend school at in-county rates.
• Reinstitute the WAGE program for nontraditional students attending community college less than half-time

Accessibility
• Expand the Keystone Education Yields Success (KEYS) program beyond community colleges to partner with Industry Partnerships and other educational programs available throughout the state
• Create services and scheduling for nontraditional students, potentially based on KEYS facilitators and the services they provide
• Engage more TANF participants in community college and other opportunities for postsecondary learning

Readiness
• Expand remediation programs like Career Gateway to overcome the challenges that students face when they move from adult literacy to college
• Consider methods of dual enrollment for nontraditional students
• Offer self-paced remediation opportunities for students who can learn effectively in that setting

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