Harrisburg – Legislation sponsored by state Sen. Bob Mensch (R-24) to establish the Pennsylvania Community College Affordability Task Force was unanimously approved this week by the Senate Education Committee.
Mensch said that Senate Bill 360 will create a panel of experts to examine and make recommendations regarding the viability and sustainability of the current community college funding model, accessibility of community college services across the commonwealth, and the long-term affordability and accessibility of a community college education.
"Community colleges are currently funded through a formula that aims to keep student tuition at no more than one-third of the educational cost. The remainder comes from state funding and local sponsorship which is from either school districts or counties. When either the local share or the state funding is reduced, the financial burden is placed on the students," said Mensch. "It is imperative the commonwealth take a serious look at how changes in the local share could affect the affordability of a community college education."
Currently, Mensch said, four community colleges are sponsored by school districts and 10 are sponsored by counties. Many school districts and counties are reevaluating their local sponsorship.
The 19-member task force will include the Secretary of Education, members appointed by the governor and legislators, local officials and representatives of community colleges, Mensch said.
In addition to the funding formula, the task force will also consider the various components of the community college mission, including open access and workforce development. Its report will be due to the governor and General Assembly within 180 days of the first meeting.
"Community colleges provide a great economic option for an entry-level college education to many Pennsylvanians who could not afford their first two years of higher education otherwise," said Mensch. "They also provide much-needed workforce development for individuals who need additional skill sets in order to remain marketable and relevant in the workplace. The role of these institutions is too important to allow them to be priced beyond the reach of Pennsylvanians who rely on them."