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More than 45% of accredited students at Pennsylvania's community colleges receive financial aid. Photo credit: Antonio Diaz/Getty Images.

Pennsylvania’s community colleges enroll nearly 250,000 students

Learn about the impact of the largest provider of public postsecondary education in the Commonwealth.

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In March 2022, the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges presented testimony to the House Appropriations Committee for the community colleges 2022-2023 fiscal year budget request. 

In the document, the Commission explained how important the community colleges are for the state in promoting accessible higher education mainly to the low-income classes — allowing changes in society and in the students’ personal lives. 

Pennsylvania’s community colleges offer specific programs and services that enroll nearly 250,000 students — they are the largest provider of public postsecondary education in the Commonwealth. 

Community colleges are usually the first step in the students’ journey in higher education. Approximately 80% of them transferred to another Pennsylvania institution to pursue education — saving at least $20,000, reducing their overall student debt. 

Of extreme importance as diversity and inclusion institutions, Pennsylvania’s community colleges serve more low‐income and first generation college students than any other higher education sector. Also, of the credit students who chose to report their race or ethnicity in Fall 2019, 39% self reported non‐white.

According to the commission, nearly half of community college students in the Commonwealth are considered very low‐income, coming from families earning less than $30,000 annually — showing a correlation between race and income. 

Community college transfer students also boast higher graduation and completion rates. According to the commission, in the 2019‐20 academic year, community college students who transferred to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) had a four‐year graduation rate of about 64%, which was more than 20% higher than others. 

Data shows that those graduates tend to keep working in Pennsylvania, contributing to the economy and community. 

Benefiting the community and their personal lifes, postsecondary degrees open a variety of doors for people with different backgrounds. It increases an individual's economic earning power and the possibilities of career advancement, as well as gains in their personal lifes. Throughout the United States, but especially in Pennsylvania, community colleges have become an important promoter of such life and career improvements. 

The pandemic came to prove how essential community colleges have been in providing affordable, high‐quality postsecondary education and workforce training aligned with local and statewide industry needs, as stated by the Commission.

If you want to learn more about it and the Commission’s recommendations, click here

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