WARREN, Pa. — State education officials have given the green light for an educational institution to provide low-cost instruction for nine northwestern Pennsylvania counties lacking a community college.
The Pennsylvania Department of Education last week approved plans by the Rural Regional College of Northern Pennsylvania to enroll students in the fall in a partnership with Gannon University in Erie. The college has been offering limited courses during the summer.
Officials say the college is neither an online school nor a traditional brick-and-mortar college but instead aims to keep costs down by using video conferencing technology linking faculty to students at places such as libraries or community education centers.
They call it the first “community college-like” institution north of Interstate 80 aiming to provide “affordable and accessible education opportunities” for Cameron, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, McKean, Potter, Venango and Warren counties.
The college will require only a high school diploma or GED and will charge $180 per credit and $60 per credit for dual-enrollment students currently in high school.
Project executive Duane Vicini said Gannon will provide curriculum and instructors at least initially but the college eventually wants to develop its own curriculum and use its own instructors. The goal isn’t to compete with existing campuses and in fact the college is looking into using some of their facilities such as classrooms and library services, he said.
Officials have said they hope the college will help young people get training and education they need to continue working close to home. Vicini said area employers and prospective students have expressed most interest in health care and advanced manufacturing and industrial maintenance programs.
Retired state senator Mary Jo White, the chair of the board of trustees, said in a statement Friday that “a collaborative team effort” had created “a new, unique and much-needed post-secondary educational option for the area.”
“This will be every community’s college from Erie to Emporium,” she said.