SELINSGROVE — Negotiations continue between the Susquehanna Valley Community Education Project (SVCEP) and an unnamed potential university partner that would provide umbrella accreditation for a new local community college.

At the 2020 Community College Summit at the Susquehanna Valley Country Club, SVCEP Executive Director Lenaire Ahlum said a partner university has been narrowed down but the agreement is not yet finalized between the two entities. The organization's mission is to bring a community college to the Susquehanna Valley — specifically Sunbury — to serve Snyder, Union, Northumberland and Montour counties.

"We are not ready to make a disclosure at this point until that university partner is ready to make a public statement," said Ahlum. "We feel reasonably sure this is the right one."

The letter of intent is expected to be signed within the first quarter of 2021. Throughout 2021 and 2022, the group would seek sponsorship from counties with a goal to seek a state application in 2022-23. By 2024-25, the goal is to have a president hired, a board of trustees appointed, administration, faculty and staff in place and programming and instruction started.

An independent local community college would allow a governing body of local trustees with an interest in the community to be formed, reduce commuter costs and develop and retain talent. The revenue stream would flow in, business growth would be tailed to local employer needs and the tax base would be able to raise salaries and revenue, said Ahlum.

Funding for the new community college would cost $1.14 per household per month.

U.S. Rep. Fred Keller, R-12, said success comes in many forms. He said he was not able to afford college as a young person and went immediately into the workforce.

"We're fortunate to know there's no one path to success, but many," said Keller. "The road to achievement has many lanes, and education is the engine that keeps our country moving forward."

Community colleges are an "outstanding pathway forward" to provide the skills and tools necessary for family-sustaining careers, he said.

"With the right access to high-quality educational opportunities, any dream can become a reality," said Keller. "There's no limit to what the American spirit can accomplish when passion is coupled with preparation."

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