In this month’s column, State Rep. Emily Kinkead discusses viable, affordable higher education.

Photo: Office of Rep. Kinkead

As we gear up for yet another school year, and especially face yet another year of education unknowns, more and more students are choosing to begin their education journey at affordable community colleges, like Allegheny County’s own CCAC, before transferring to a four-year university to achieve a bachelor’s degree.

We know education is the key that opens the door toward many fulfilling, family-sustaining careers, but higher education costs continue to rise and community colleges are the way that many first-generation and non-traditional college students can access this path.

While Pennsylvania has taken significant steps to streamline that transfer process, I have introduced legislation that would make it even easier without requiring students to take on crippling financial debt.

House Bill 705 would guarantee admission into a state System of Higher Education university for community college students who complete an associate’s degree at a Pennsylvania community college. A similar program has been quite successful in California, with nearly 50% of students in the program earning a bachelor’s degree within two years of transferring, compared to only 27% for traditional transfer students.

Bear in mind, every college student’s experience toward earning a degree is different, and much of that is based not on their specific academic interest or potential, but primarily their ability to pay and navigate a frustrating financial aid and admissions process. Too often, that journey is convoluted and expensive and discourages students from finishing school. My bill would encourage students to achieve their baccalaureate degrees and improve overall access to cost-effective higher education.

No student’s dreams, ambitions, or career should be limited or overburdened merely by the cost of education: We must make it easier for them to create a clear pathway to graduation and a successful, rewarding career. I believe if you work hard, you should be able to earn a degree and graduate without paralyzing student debt.

While my legislation is still pending in the House Education Committee, my colleagues and I remain committed to helping more of our students get the education they deserve.Please feel free to reach out to me if you have questions or need assistance, whether it be related to higher education or any state program or service, by calling my office at 412-321-5523 or emailing me at RepKinkead@pahouse.net. My team and I are here to help you!

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