Pennsylvania Community Colleges Celebrate 7,530 May Graduates

The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges celebrated the 7,530 students who graduated from one of the state’s 15 community colleges last month. Community college graduates continue to fill workforce needs in their communities with the vast majority receiving degrees in high priority occupation areas including the health sciences, early childhood education, teacher training, the trades, manufacturing and information technology/computer science.

“We are extremely proud of our graduates and the work that they are undertaking in communities across the state,” said Tuesday Stanley, Chair of the PACCC board of directors and president of Westmoreland County Community College. “And kudos to our community colleges for their unwavering commitment to provide affordable access to life-changing education and training that supports the success of their students while providing clear career pathways for graduates to address meaningful workforce needs.”

Based on current census and population data, it is estimated Pennsylvania’s projected skilled worker shortage could reach 820,000 in the coming years. To meet the state’s workforce needs and support continued economic growth, more workers will be required with appropriate credentials and training tailored to regional employer needs – an area in which community colleges excel.

“Our Commission’s members play an important role in creating a pipeline of well-trained individuals to address the Commonwealth’s evolving and growing workforce needs, a fact which is on display particularly at graduation time,” added Stanley.

The Hospital and Healthsystem Association of Pennsylvania conducted a survey of 70 of its hospitals in November of 2023 and found that one-third of registered nurse positions were vacant. The need is in sharp contrast to levels before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. In May, 13 percent of community college graduates received nursing degrees, adding more than 1,000 nurses to the workforce.

Health sciences led the list of degrees granted this May at community colleges in the state with graduates earning credentials to serve as RNs, medical assistants, radiographers, dental hygienists, medical coders and billers, sonographers, among many others.

Jamie Gallagher earned her registered nursing pin in May, marking the completion of her studies at Butler County Community College (BC3). Jamie, a 46-year-old single mother of six, also received a nursing award which funds licensures and testing fees for the post-graduation National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) for registered nurses.

“BC3 has a strong focus on preparing students for the workforce,” said Dr. Belinda Richardson, this college’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. “This alignment with workforce ensures that assessment processes are designed to evaluate the employability skills and competencies required by employers in the local community.”

Pennsylvania is also facing a major shortage of educators across the Commonwealth. A decade ago, roughly 20,000 teacher certifications were issued each year, while in 2021 only about 6,000 were issued. This includes Pre-K and early childcare programs. A March 2022 Start Strong PA survey found that there are nearly 32,500 children on waiting lists with 91% of respondents citing staffing shortages as the challenge to serve more children.

Pennsylvania’s 15 community colleges have over 245,000 students enrolled on their 80 campuses, providing real savings to students and families as they pursue additional credentials. On average, students save $30,000 on their education by starting at, or selecting, a community college for their degree or certificate. Those same 15 colleges partner with 2,170 employers for workforce training ensuring that students have the most up-to-date knowledge, and providing pathways to careers for them as well.