Erie County's Community College application is finally moving forward for a review and decision from the Pennsylvania State Department of Education.

With Erie County as the official sponsor of the application, County Executive Kathy Dahlkemper said the county deserves an answer. "This community deserves to have the workforce training it needs, that our businesses have been asking for," Dahlkemper said, "and we certainly deserve a vote on a very well-written application that has been down in Harrisburg for over two years." 

The idea of community college has been studied, approved and promoted locally, with new grant money awarded just this week from the Erie Community Foundation.  But getting the State Department of Education to review the application and decide to give it thumbs up or thumbs down has seemed impossible until now.

County Executive Dahlkemper told us the application has been hung up in plain old politics.

Some in Harrisburg wanted the county to work on a collaboration with the relatively new Northern Pennsylvania Regional College.  Erie County officials made that attempt in the summer, but the talks broke down.  Dahlkemper believes that since the county at least tried, that may be one reason that the application is advancing now.

Others at the state level may be worried about the costs of adding one more to 14 community colleges across Pennsylvania, but Dahlkemper says that's not fair.  "We’ve all been paying for those 14 community colleges for decades,  our taxpayer dollars that go to the state have been divvied up to those other 14 areas in Pennsylvania and we’ve got nothing for that," she said.

The matter goes to the State Board of Education's Special Committee on the Erie County Community College Plan on October 29 in Harrisburg.  That meeting allows time for public comment and County Executive Dahlkemper plans to be there to make the case.  "Hopefully the special review committee will have a positive recommendation and then it’s up to the board to vote and of course that is the big test, will the board vote for what we know we need in this community?" Dahkemper said.

We took the question of what the community needs to five Erie High students already getting a taste of career options in their classes.  All agreed that an Erie County Community College would be a good option for them or their peers, because they believe it would be a close, affordable option, especially for students who are finally ready to get serious about their future, or who want to sample career possibilities without the full cost or commitment of traditional college.

The Erie County Community College application is expected to go the the full Pennsylvania Board of Education November 13-14.