March 9, 2018
Commission Update

Sharing how PA's community colleges are responsive to the needs of the local communities they serve.

News from Pennsylvania's community colleges

Policymakers in both the state Senate and House recognized the success of Pennsylvania's 14 community colleges in educating students and preparing them for the workforce. They also questioned, despite their success, why the colleges' operating appropriation was flat funded in the proposed 2018-19 state budget.

"There are a tremendous amount of community colleges that are doing the right things - investing in their facilities ... I think they should be allowed to have some of those dollars for operational (costs)," state Sen. Mario Scavello, who serves Monroe and Northampton counties, noted during the Senate Appropriations hearing.

Education Secretary Pedro Rivera responded by acknowledging the colleges' operating appropriation is level funded in the proposed budget, but said the colleges are doing an amazing job updating their campuses and labs to align to business and industry needs.

During the House Appropriations hearing, state Rep. Madeleine Dean of Montgomery County emphasized the need for affordable educational opportunities. Community colleges are the most affordable public higher education option in the commonwealth.

State Rep. Seth Grove of York County questioned why PASSHE schools are expected to receive a significant increase in operating funding in the proposed budget when community colleges do the bulk of career and technical and STEM education.

Others, such as state Rep. Stan Saylor, chair of the House Appropriations Committee, lobbied for more money for community colleges. "They are doing an amazing job in educating our children and preparing them for the workforce," Rep. Saylor said. "I think we need to take a serious look at how much money we're appropriating for community colleges. I'm a believer in rewarding those who are successful, those who are solving problems and our community colleges have been doing exactly that."

It was one of the coldest winter games in history, but Team USA had no problems staying warm thanks to the work of  Butler County Community College graduates. Employed by Butler Technologies, the graduates helped design, engineer and manufacture 1,900 flexible plastic heating elements, depicting a U.S. Flag, bonded into the Ralph Lauren parkas worn by Team USA in the Pyeongchang Games.

The process used blue-gray or gray conductive ink, composed of silver and carbon, to coat and heat the pliable plastic. Olympians were able to control the warmth settings to heat the flag, which was positioned vertically atop the parkas back.

At Butler Technologies,  BC3 graduates serve as quality and engineering managers; and in customer service, purchasing, engineering, scheduling, graphic design and finishing capacities. "Pretty much every single department is covered," Butler Technologies supervisor Tristan Tripodi said, "by someone who has gone to  BC3 ."

The new York Traditions Bank office in the city's downtown area is currently undergoing renovations and is projected to open mid-year, and a  Community College of Allegheny County graduate is slated to manage the branch at North George and West Philadelphia streets.
James Coombes, who earned his associates degree from CCAC and later graduated from the Central Atlantic School of Banking and Advanced School of Banking, has worked in the industry for 25 years. He previously served for 18 years as manager of the Center City York Financial Center for PeoplesBank.
Outside of work, James volunteers as an allocations panel member of the United Way of York County and as a team captain for the Cultural Alliance of York County annual campaign. He's also involved with York City Special Events, Big Brothers Big Sisters, Junior Achievement, and YWCA's Walk A Mile in Her Shoes.

PA Community College students are making a difference

Butler County Community College graduates Ross Wells, Amber Omstead and Jason Letzelter are shown at their workplace, Butler Technologies, where they helped manufacture 1,900 flexible plastic heating elements depicting a U.S. flag and bonded into the Ralph Lauren parkas and bomber jackets debuted by Team USA in the 2018 Winter Olympics.
National higher education news roundup