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Lawmakers Introduce “Grow PA” Higher Education Reform Plan
2024-04-17

Support More Affordable Learning Opportunities, Pathways to PA Careers

 

            Students in Pennsylvania would have access to more affordable post-secondary education options leading to quality careers in the state under a plan announced today by Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Senator Scott Martin (R-Lancaster), Senate Majority Whip Ryan P. Aument (R-Lancaster), Senate Education Committee Chair David G. Argall (R-Schuylkill) and Senator Tracy Pennycuick (R-Montgomery).

            According to the College and University Professional Association for Human Resources, Pennsylvania is expected to have 12% fewer college students by 2029 than it did in 2013.

            Dwindling enrollment and migration of young people out of the state creates extremely difficult economic and demographic challenges that will put greater stress on the state budget and potentially lead to the loss of federal funding and representation, the lawmakers said.

            The "Grow PA" plan would help make Pennsylvania more competitive in attracting and retaining students to attend college and complete certificate and job-training programs and would provide incentives for graduates to remain in the state after graduation.

            "Pennsylvania needs a fresh approach to post-secondary education to ensure we can be more competitive and overcome the economic and demographic challenges that threaten our state's future," Martin said. "We need to encourage more students to learn here, put down roots here, work here, and grow here."

            "We cannot continue to invest more in our system without any respect to the outcomes that system is producing," Aument said. "Instead, we should move to a performance-based funding model that will allow us to scrutinize the dollars we're already spending and focus state resources on students and programs that align with career fields that are in demand in Pennsylvania. Creating a direct pipeline from Pennsylvania institutions of higher education to Pennsylvania jobs will not only help students to swiftly gain meaningful employment in a career field they're passionate about, but it will also grow our population and our economy in a time when our working age population is diminishing."

            "Quality higher education has the potential to improve the lives of our students and their families and breathe new life into our communities, but it's clear that Pennsylvania is falling behind the competition," Argall said. "This much-needed legislation will guide students to high-demand careers and strengthen all of our colleges and universities, including our technical education colleges at Thaddeus Stevens College of Technology and Penn College."

            "A highly skilled workforce is the bedrock of any strong economy and the best way for Pennsylvania to invest in higher education is to fund the student, not systems," Pennycuick said. "Grow PA promotes our economy's future by ensuring that our students have the support they need to choose the path to success that is right for them."

            Grow PA includes the creation of two new programs to encourage students in Pennsylvania and from out-of-state to enroll in higher education programs on the condition that they remain and work in Pennsylvania after completing their studies.

            The new Grow PA Scholarship Grant Program would provide funding to make college more affordable for students in high-demand industries, including agriculture, energy, health care, teachers, law enforcement, and more. The grants would be available for students attending any Pennsylvania school – including career and technical schools like Thaddeus Stevens College and Pennsylvania College of Technology – in one of the priority fields of study.

            In addition, a new Merit Scholarship Program would help attract high-performing out-of-state students to Pennsylvania educational programs in Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education schools.

            For both new programs, students would be required to work in Pennsylvania for a period of time. Graduates who fail to remain in Pennsylvania after graduation would have the grants or scholarships converted to loans.

            Grow PA also includes the expansion of several existing higher education assistance programs that are working, including the popular Ready to Succeed Scholarship Program, which provides scholarships to high-achieving students to cover the cost of post-secondary education.

            The Targeted Industry Support Program, which helps cover the cost of a wide variety of certificate programs in high-growth industries, would also be expanded.

            Expanding the state's existing Foster/Adopted Child Program nationwide is also included in the plan, as well as Increasing dual enrollment and further promoting career and technical opportunities.

            In addition, Grow PA would encourage universal completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), so students and families are fully aware of what financial aid packages are available to them and can make informed post-secondary education decisions.

            The Senate already approved a bill mandating universal FAFSA completion in June 2023.

            The plan also creates a performance-based funding model for state-related universities, adding accountability to the process of funding these schools and ensuring tax dollars provide the greatest benefit to Pennsylvania taxpayers.

            Grow PA represents a responsible alternative to Governor Shapiro's higher education plans, which have drawn criticism for a lack of attention to detail. The alternative plan presents a way to achieve the main post-secondary education goals of both parties at a lower cost than the governor's concepts.

            Representative Jesse Topper (R-Bedford), who is Republican Chair of the House Education Committee, helped create the plan and intends to lead introduction of the bills in the House of Representatives.


 

 

 

 

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