MILTON — A new community college in the region would have an impact of $78.5 million in new economic activity over 10 years, according to a major economic impact study released on Thursday.
The Susquehanna Valley Community Education Project (SVCEP) released the study at the Central PA Chamber of Commerce of Monday. The information was prepared by Economic Modeling Specialists International, a leader in labor market data and higher education analysis.
"We love the results of the study," said Meghan Beck, the president of the SVCEP board. "They have proven everything we've been talking about for the last five years. We've seen other community colleges doing this, and we were excited to see this for ourselves."
The $78.5 million impact is broken down as follows: $2.6 million in short-run capital spending impacts, $39.7 million in long-rung operations spending impacts, $15 million in student spending and $21.3 million in alumni impact. Once it's stabilized in 10 years, the annual economic impact would mean $16.7 million and 270 jobs a year, according to the study.
It would require a $1.2 million annual investment from Northumberland, Union, Montour and Snyder counties. Northumberland would be asked to provide $624,000, Union would be asked $240,000, Snyder would be $228,000 and Montour at $108,000, according to the study.
The annual rate of return for local taxpayers would be 26.4 percent meaning for every dollar invested by local taxpayers, there is a $3.50 return, according to the study.
If the proposed college will have grown significantly by 2024, it is expected to take 2.9 years to recover the costs of capital investment and the annual costs of keeping the proposed college operational.
Dr. Lenaire Ahlum, executive director of the SVCEP, said a partner university has been narrowed down but the agreement is not yet finalized. A partner university, which is required at first in order to provide immediate accreditation, is expected to be announced within the first quarter of this year.
Throughout 2021 and 2022, the group would seek sponsorship from counties with a goal to seek a state application in 2022-23. By 2023-24, the goal is to have a president hired, a board of trustees appointed, administration, faculty and staff in place and programming and instruction started.
"This is reasonable," said Ahlum. "We're looking to move it forward following these milestones."
A new community college will offer curricular tracks in agriculture, biology, business, education, engineering, liberal arts and nursing. It will grant certificates and associate degrees, with stackable, transferable credits, allowing students to pursue further education at a four-year university.
Currently, there are only fourteen public community colleges to serve the 13 million residents of Pennsylvania; they are located in the Pittsburgh and Philadelphia metro regions, with one in Harrisburg and one in the northeast. Earlier this year, The Pennsylvania State Board of Education approved the plan to establish Erie County Community College with plans to open doors in fall 2021. SVCEP aims to make the 16th public community college a reality for the Valley.
John Shipman, the vice president of the SCVEP Board, said the study verifies "for us, the people of the region and for our elected officials that the college is a viable, workable college that will help the young people of the area."
"Rural America is struggling," said Shipman. "Rural America does not have the opportunities you have in major cities. We know high-paying jobs are much more readily available in the cities than they are here."
A community college is good for our students, employers, the economy and taxing authorities, he said.