The Senate Education Committee voted this week to unanimously pass legislation which will create a Rural Regional Community College Initiative, according to Senator Joe Scarnati (R-25).
Senator Scarnati, who introduced Senate Bill 1000 in June, explained that the legislation is a bi-partisan measure which is based largely on recommendations by a Legislative Budget and Finance Committee (LBFC) study completed in December 2011.
“Senate Bill 1000 will help set the foundation for establishing rural public community college opportunities in Pennsylvania and help meet the educational needs of students in rural areas,” Scarnati stated.
Scarnati noted that a public hearing on Senate Bill 1000 was held by the Senate Education Committee in Harrisburg in October. Testifiers at the hearing included the North Central Workforce Investment Board, American Refining Group Inc., Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, Pennsylvania Department of Education and the Rural Community College Alliance.
“Senate Bill 1000 received an in depth review by the Senate Education Committee at the October hearing,” Scarnati said. “Thanks to input by education, business and community leaders we were able to ensure that this legislation will provide a solid foundation for rural regional community colleges.”
Scarnati mentioned that in the House of Representatives, Representative Martin Causer has introduced a companion bill to SB 1000, which would seek to establish a rural community college program. A hearing on House Bill 1701 was held this week by the House Education Committee.
The LBFC study which helped provide a framework for SB 1000, concluded that there is a significant need for public community college programs in rural Pennsylvania. According to the report, by 2018 most jobs will require post-secondary education training, however 25 of the 26 rural counties in Pennsylvania have no community college programs.
“Providing rural communities with access to affordable higher education is critical to providing new career opportunities for students and improving the economy,” Scarnati said. “I look forward to continuing to work with my colleagues in the Senate and House of Representatives to launch this important educational initiative.”
Senate Bill 1000 now goes to the full Senate for consideration.