Pennsylvania County Gets a Community College

July 10, 2020

The Pennsylvania State Board of Education on Wednesday approved, 10 to 5, a plan to create a community college in Erie County.

It will be the first new community college in the state in 27 years, according to a news release.

The plan was developed by Empower Erie, a nonprofit advocacy group, which argued that there was a great need for an affordable college in the area. Only 16 percent of local residents have some college credits, and only 8.5 percent have an associate degree, according to U.S. Census Bureau data.

“We finally opened a door that had been slammed shut to underserved urban and rural communities in Erie County,” Ron DiNicola, co-founder of Empower Erie, said in the release. “We envision a world-class workforce development center that will serve as an economic engine to provide socio-economic mobility and equity for everyone in our community.”

There are other colleges in Erie County, but most cost more than $10,000 annually in tuition and fees. The proposal from Empower Erie said tuition for a full year would only cost about $2,400.

Advocates also cite the state's Community College Act of 1963, which called for every Pennsylvanian to be within commuting distance of a two-year college. The closest community college to Erie is 100 miles away.

However, a relatively new college that uses hybrid instruction and has no fixed campus opposed the creation of a community college in Erie. Northern Pennsylvania Regional College offers two-year degrees and workforce training programs, and it serves several counties, including Erie.

The college has a right to appeal the decision to approve Erie County Community College, according to GoErie.com.

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