SHAMOKIN DAM — Marywood University and the Susquehanna Valley Community Education Project (SVCEP) are forming a partnership to provide Middle States Commission for Higher Education accreditation for a new community college start-up in the Valley.

Leaders from both teams announced on May 14 at the Greater Susquehanna Valley Chamber of Commerce that the goal is to have the new community college open in Sunbury by 2023 or 2024. Marywood, a private university based in Scranton, was founded in 1915 by the Sisters, Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary; the University serves students from a variety of backgrounds and religions.

“Our 106-year history demonstrates that we really do, at the heart of who we are, have the intent to educate people, so we can empower them, so they can live good lives, and successful lives and productive lives, to be able to help their families and educate their families,” said Marywood University President/CEO Dr. Mary Persico.

The mission of SVCEP and Marywood line up, she said.

“It has worked for us, and it will work for you,” said Persico. “We would be foolhardy if we didn’t put our money where our mouth is and say yes, we will help you do this.”

She added, “Whatever it takes, we pledge to do it. We will treat your students and your people as our own until you are able to stand on your own two feet.”

Meghan Beck, the president of the SVCEP board, said the partnership will allow the new community college to have accreditation on day one.

“It will give us a firm foundation for success and create a great culture,” said Beck. “We were so excited when we visited Marywood’s campus and got to see the amazing culture of their community and the great reputation that we hope to emulate and build over the first few founding years of the organization.”

The SVCEP recently announced that Economic Modeling Specialists International (Emsi), the leader in labor market and higher education analyses, conducted a study of the first 10 years of the community college and concluded that a new regional community college serving Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, and Union counties and adjacent areas will bring conservatively $78.5 million in new economic activity to the Valley.

The next step is to seek support from the county commissioners.

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 a study commissioned by SVCEP.

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.

The partnership is a “pledge to nurture an emergent and excellent community college as a condition of local sponsorship,” said Dr. Lenaire Ahlum, executive director of the SVCEP.

“Therefore we urge our county commissioners to work with us, sign a resolution of sponsorship, so an application can be submitted for approval for a new regional community college by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education.”

Ahlum said Marywood is “an exceptional university partner for an extraordinary project.”

“Marywood University believes that education empowers people,” said Ahlum. “It promotes academic excellence. They foster leadership and service to others. They are welcoming and supportive of their community. They challenge individuals of all backgrounds to achieve their full potential.”

They prepare students to seek sustainable solutions in their communities and promote social responsibility that fosters community engagement, said Ahlum.

“We believe this community college will meet the needs in the commonwealth of Pennsylvania,” she said.

Sites have been examined, but SVCEP members are not saying which properties may serve as the future site of the community college.

The goal is to establish the college in the city of Sunbury, said Beck.

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