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State senator proposes bill to fund 2 years of higher ed

October 27, 2020 Digital Media Exclusive

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State Sen. John Yudichak, I-14th, will soon introduce legislation to implement the Pennsylvania Skills Compact, a proposed program that would fund two years of tuition-free post-secondary education for every Pennsylvanian.

The compact, which is modeled after a program in Tennessee, was detailed in August by state Treasurer Joe Torsella and would cover additional tuition and fees after the exhaustion of all federal and state grant funds available to a student.

The two years of training could be used to attain associate’s degrees, technical certifications and other professional and occupational credentials.

“The PA Skills Compact is the bold, innovative idea we need to help repair the financial stability of Pennsylvania families,” Torsella said in a news release. “Too many Pennsylvanians have been priced out of higher education or been weighed down from debt.”

The program would allow any Pennsylvanian to enroll at eligible institutions in the state, including community colleges, technical schools and four-year institutions offering two-year degrees.

The state treasury said the impact to the General Fund would be minimized by its nature as a last-dollar program, costing roughly $84 million in its first year. It also said it would be mitigated by leveraging federal funds for workforce development, COVID-19 relief and higher education funding.

“The PA Skills Compact is an educational and economic investment that will help expedite Pennsylvania’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis,” Yudichak said. “By providing more people access to postsecondary education, we will be able to support our institutions of higher education, fill jobs and create more economic development opportunities for our communities.”

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