The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

April 8, 2013

Penn Highlands growing stronger

Student enrollment, partnerships on rise


The Tribune-Democrat

— Pennsylvania Highlands Community College is getting an increasing amount of attention from area students looking for post-high school studies. And no wonder, it is doing a lot of things right.

Most importantly, PHCC is experiencing growth: In enrollment, course offerings and classroom presence outside of Cambria County. It’s also expanding community partnerships, helping raise the quality of education it offers our young people, as well as displaced workers looking to jump-start new careers.     

“We’re doing tremendous things in Cambria County and the surrounding region,” college President Walter Asonevich said last week in his annual state-of-the-college message.

“A community college belongs to the local community, and we are moving forward and doing the best we can do for students.”

Since its inaugural term in 1994, PHCC has grown steadily and admirably.

That’s because, in part, all four of its presidents have continued on the same mission of offering an affordable education while working with area businesses and industries to provide training programs specifically needed for area workplaces.

It hasn’t always been easy, as Asonevich noted in a February opinion piece in The Tribune-Democrat.

“After years of being severely underfunded by the state, community colleges are struggling to meet the growing demands of students and employers turning to these institutions for education and training,” he noted, adding, “Pennsylvania Highlands Community College has seen a 32 percent drop in its state allocation per full-time equivalent student during the past five years.”

But among the plentiful good news is that during that same time frame, Penn Highlands has added welding, culinary arts and health care programs at the request of local industries.

Last week, Asonevich reported partnerships with JWF Industries, Conemaugh Health System, MountainTop Technologies Inc. and Greater   Johnstown High School, among others.

That bodes well for all involved.

And, as reported by our Kelly Urban, the college is scheduled to begin classes this fall at Altoona’s Logan Valley Mall, while talks continue toward opening a campus in Mifflin County.

“We’ve seen 40 percent student growth since 2008,” Asonevich said, “so we are growing as an institution and we plan to keep growing for another           10 years.”

Good news indeed for students, as well as the community as a whole.

The national Chronicle of Higher Education in its 2012 almanac reported that Penn Highlands has the highest graduation rate among the 14 community colleges in Pennsylvania.

That’s truly something to celebrate.

We’ve been in awe over the years watching Penn Highlands grow and mature into a college our entire region can be proud of.

Keep going strong.

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