Community colleges nationwide are facing serious declines in enrollment and have been for almost ten years as adult learners are returning to the workforce due to the improving economy, but adding to that is a demographic change where fewer students are graduating from high schools and by 2025 it’s expected that drop will accelerate. Combined with these factors, state and federal legislators have been tightening the purse strings until the colleges “improve graduation and completion rates and increase the number of students transferring to four-year institutions.”
In other words, Erie County seems determined to build a community college at the exact time when headwinds are strongest and colleges already established are cutting back.
Community colleges tend to be counter-cyclical, which means their enrollments go up when employment goes down, unfortunately the combination of other factors listed above along with the many other education and training options available today to prospective students that didn’t even exist ten years ago, means publicly funded community colleges are an institution past their prime.
Within Erie County, Mercyhurst recently announced their intention to pull the plug on their North East campus and consolidate those programs into their main campus in Erie. This follows a trend nationwide of decreasing enrollments leading to cost cutting measures where it is predicted 25 percent of small colleges will fail in the next two decades.
The financial issues these trends cause in any community college, compound the difficulty in trying to add new courses to address rapidly changing technologies and results in a curriculum that can’t keep up.
None of this information is hard to find, so it’s curious that community college proponents seem so unaware of it or have simply chosen to ignore it. Do they believe Erie County is somehow immune to trends nationwide? If so, an explanation of why that would be is surely warranted.
Make no mistake, education and training is absolutely necessary to succeed in the current economy, but this project seems very ill advised. Again, as already noted, seeing the details of what they are proposing would go a long way to determining how much actual thought has gone into it.
charles bennett says
You mirror my thoughts exactly.
There is an expensive self-serving PR effort to try to get the community college.
There is already a community college available to residents called the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College (NPRC) which is already approved, funded and has very competent staff, faculty and administration..
The self-serving PR group keeps mentioning “bricks and mortar” and refuse to acknowledge changes in the education delivery system.
They and their backers still have an excellent opportunity to join with the NPRC.
Erie County has a poor record n backing various “must have” projects which puts the taxpayer as risk.
Taxpayers will pay over and over for this ill-fated venture. Erie County taxpayers have already paid for an expensive study done by this self-serving PR group.
Time to contact the state Pennsylvania Department of Education to voice their concerns.
As usual, you are right on Paul. However, you have neglected to mention one of the significant points as to why there is so much pressure to do this project now.
With further delays, it will become ever more obvious to the average beleaguered taxpayer this is nothing more than another scam for subsidizing liberal Democrat leaning “educators” who must have their lifestyles and retirements funded by others.