PA Community Colleges Converge At State Capitol to Rally for Better Funding


Courtney Krier

With the fear of tuition hikes mounting, Pennsylvanian community college faculty and students from across the state descended upon Harrisburg on April 10 to speak to state representatives about the allocated funding of their schools.
A morning filled with discussion in which students were allowed to speak of their personal experiences regarding college with representatives from their school’s districts was concluded with a rally in the capitol building’s Main Rotunda.
The event was organized by the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, an association headed by Bucks’ president Dr. Stephanie Shanblatt. She was also the master of ceremonies for the day.
According to the Commission’s website, it is “a nonprofit, volunteer membership association and the primary advocate for Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges.” It is the Commission’s goal to help assist PA community colleges in advocacy for their funding and other causes.
Bucks’ own representatives departed for Harrisburg by van from Newtown campus as the sun rose at 6:30 a.m. Varying circumstances left the group smaller than anticipated, at a quaint five, but still with plenty of vigor.
John Sheridan, a professor of the Arts at Bucks, and Matthew Cipriano, Director of Student Life and Athletics Programs, had been prepping for the trip a while.
Aiming to hit representatives at the voting ballot, Sheridan had gathered hundreds of cards signed by Bucks students to hand to their respective representatives. He hoped these cards would remind representatives that students are voters as well, and should be as represented as any other constitute.
After the two hour trip to Harrisburg, the group from Bucks was invited up to Gene DiGirolamo’s office. The representative of Bensalem was more than happy to accommodate them.

Once in the office, other representatives from the Bucks area began to join them. Among them were Perry Warren, Tina Davis, Frank Farry, Marguerite Quinn, Craig Staats, and John Galloway. Bucks Board of Trustees member David Breidinger was also present.
It was Representative Quinn who led the questioning of the students and faculty, but every representative patiently listened to their experiences and concerns.
“We’re losing out affordability, our greatest asset.” Sheridan said, while speaking in Harrisburg. “We have to work on budgets much smaller than most schools.”
Harley Minton, 19 and a music major from Levittown, added onto that concern with personal experience. “Bucks has allowed me to go to school while still having a full-time job to pay for it.”
After a tour of the house floor where the voting happens, the rally was held in the Main Rotunda In support of the speakers, the students that were present at the event all stood on the main staircase behind them, nearly filling the entire space.
Dr. Shanblatt was present as well, and spoke at length about the boons of community college, and why they are essential for what they can offer to students in terms of learning a trade.
“Community colleges have more students than any other,” Dr. Shanblatt said. “We’re doing a lot for providing quality workers for the community.”
After the eventful morning and afternoon, the group left back for Bucks, tired but encouraged by their experiences.
Alex Polenski, 20, and another music major from Doylestown, weighed in. “It felt like they were actually listening, which is hard (to get) for people our age.”
Unfortunately, tuition has still been raised for the next year. Hopefully with events like this and representative support, it will keep the raises in tuition reasonable and affordable.