Thursday, March 31, 2016

Access, Success, and Completion

“Access, Success, and Completion” was the focus of the second annual joint meeting of the State System and Community College presidents and chief academic officers this Wednesday in Harrisburg. This was another historic meeting between these public higher education partners that continue to work together to better serve the students of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Did you know that nearly half of the new undergraduate students who transferred to the State System’s 14 universities last year came from one of the 14 community colleges of Pennsylvania? That’s an impressive number, but we can do more. A recent study by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce notes that, by 2020, 60% of jobs in Pennsylvania will require some post-secondary education or training. In order to fill this demand, partnerships and collaborations that remove barriers and focusing on access will be vitally important.

The landmark Reverse Transfer Agreement that was announced during Wednesday’s meeting is a great example of how both the universities and community colleges are committed to improving student completion rates. The agreement will allow State System students who began their studies at a Pennsylvania community college to receive their associate’s degree while continuing their education. Those who earned at least 45 credits at their community college before transferring to the university are able to reverse transfer credits back to their community college once they have earned enough to apply for an associate’s degree, at no additional cost.

Why is this so important? The completion of an associate’s degree would enhance the student’s earning potential as they work toward a bachelor’s degree, certification, or other credential from a State System university.

I applaud our community college and university leaders for taking this step forward, together. It’s crucial for all of us to continue to think of ways to partner with others to better meet the needs of students and employers.

Thursday, March 24, 2016

100,000+ Students: A Worthy Investment

By now, you’ve already heard the numbers: 90 percent of students who attend State System universities are Pennsylvania residents, and 80 percent of all graduates will remain in Pennsylvania after graduation and go on to contribute to the state’s economic future.

But who are these students we so often talk about? Recently, I had the pleasure of getting to know Drew Johnson, East Stroudsburg University’s Student Senate president, as he joined me on a panel that appeared before both the House and Senate appropriations committees during the State System’s 2016-17 budget hearings. Drew spoke from the heart about how the lack of funding is affecting the educational experience of students at all 14 universities. Members of the General Assembly appreciated his openness and thoughtful remarks.

Drew is just one example of the many students who are worth our investment, and I’d like to introduce you to a few more:

Edinboro University student Katherine McAtee aspires to be a speech language pathologist to work with children to help overcome speech delays or impediments; IUP student Erika Fenstermacher will pursue a Ph.D. in clinical psychology thanks to the opportunities to participate in research as an undergraduate; Mansfield University student Marquise Isaac-Rivers will continue his education with the goal of being a leader in student affairs; and Bloomsburg University student Rebecca DeMuth believes everyone has the right to a healthy environment and plans to make a difference in the world through environmental justice.

Browse through our “Invest In Me” site, where you can see more students who are worth the investment. They are helping with a social media advocacy campaign designed to let the voices of our 100,000+ students be heard leading up to the 2016-17 State System’s Advocacy Days at the Capitol (April 5-6) .

When the Commonwealth invests in our State System universities and students, there is a tangible, measurable return on that investment—many times over. So, now is the time to invest!