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  • Writer's pictureChris Pielli

During Visit to WCU, Governor Shapiro and State Rep. Pielli Highlight How Higher Education Blueprint Will Spur Economic Growth

West Chester, PAGovernor Josh Shapiro toured West Chester University (WCU) with PDE Deputy Secretary of Education and Higher Education Commissioner Kate Shaw, Representative Chris Pielli, Chester County Commissioner Marian Moskowitz, and WCU leadership and students to learn how WCU is giving students the freedom to chart their own course to successful careers and addressing critical workforce needs in Pennsylvania.
Governor Shapiro met with students from the College of Education and Social Work to learn about how WCU is training students in special education, elementary and middle school education, and music education to prepare the next generation of educators and help rebuild Pennsylvania’s teacher workforce. 
In January, Governor Shapiro unveiled his blueprint for higher education in Pennsylvania – focused on competitiveness and workforce development and grounded in access and affordability. Under the Governor’s plan, higher education will serve as an economic driver for Pennsylvania, prepare workers for the future, and address workforce shortages by: 
  • Building a new public system for higher education that unites PASSHE universities and 15 community colleges under a new governance system. 

  • Increasing access and affordability, including ensuring Pennsylvanians making up to the median income pay no more than $1,000 in tuition and fees per semester at state-owned universities and community colleges. 

  • Reinvesting in our publicly-funded colleges and universities via a predictable, transparent funding formula that will align state dollars with the needs of the Commonwealth. 

WCU is helping expand Pennsylvania’s education workforce by preparing students for careers in special, music, and elementary and middle school education by offering dual-enrollment classes in teacher education through WCU at no cost and partnering with local school districts to expedite the process for students to become special education teachers. 
“I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: there are many paths to success in our Commonwealth. Some of our students will go straight into the workforce, some will participate in a union apprenticeship, some will go into the military – and some will go straight to college like the West Chester University students I met today. We need to respect each of those paths equally – and invest in all of them,” said Governor Josh Shapiro. “I know some folks look at my higher education plan and say it’s too bold. Some are upset that it’s a blueprint – one we’re actively building on with higher education leaders, labor leaders, legislative leaders, and stakeholders right now. We’re trying to do this right by bringing all our best ideas to the table to build a system that will support Pennsylvania students and families and grow our economy for decades to come. If we can give Pennsylvanians the freedom to chart their own course and the opportunity to succeed, then economic opportunity will follow.” 
As college grows more expensive, enrollment is dropping, and college attainment rates are below the national average in 56 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, Pennsylvania currently ranks 48th for affordability and 49th for state investment in higher education. Governor Shapiro understands that we must take action now to improve access and opportunity for Pennsylvania students and boldly address the chronic challenges facing higher education.
To support this new system and address the historic lack of investment in Pennsylvania’s higher education system, the Governor’s 2024-25 budget proposes: 
  • $975 million in this new governance system that unites our community colleges and PASSHE schools – a 15 percent increase in the state investment in state-owned universities, community colleges, and the students they serve. 

  • Recommends an increase in financial aid for students who attend the schools under the new governance system, so that Pennsylvanians making up to the median income will pay no more than $1,000 in tuition and fees per semester beginning in FY2025-26. 

  • Increases Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) state grants by $1,000 for eligible students from a family that makes up to the median income, bringing the maximum award up from $5,750 to $6,750 beginning in FY2025-26. 

  • Invests $279 million annually starting in FY2025-26 so Pennsylvania students can attend college in-state with a limited debt load after they graduate and can enter the workforce ready to start their careers and build a future in our Commonwealth. 

“A strong higher education system is the key to Pennsylvania’s future. But what we’re doing right now isn’t working. PA ranks 49th in the state per capita for state government funding for higher education and in turn, the commonwealth ranks 48th in affordability. We have to do better, and we know we can do better for students in Pennsylvania and our neighboring states in search of the best colleges and universities,” said Representative Chris Pielli. “That is why I proudly support Governor Shapiro's historic 2024-25 Proposed Budget for Higher Education and urge my colleagues in the Senate leadership to join us and help get this across the finish line so that Pennsylvania can compete with our neighbor states and ensure brighter, more prosperous futures for our children.” 
Governor Shapiro and his Administration are currently working with higher education institutions and leaders, local and legislative leaders, labor leaders, and stakeholders across the Commonwealth to build out the details of the Governor’s blueprint for higher education and are actively meeting to gather feedback and input to finalize the plan.
“West Chester University is grateful to Governor Shapiro for his commitment to education within the Commonwealth. At West Chester, we’ve worked hard to identify students who have the most need, so we can provide the academic and financial support that will help them cross the finish line,” said WCU President Chris Fiorentino. “We also have a very proud history of partnering with many community colleges in our area and helping students transfer seamlessly so they can earn bachelor’s degrees. We’re proud of the work that we are doing and thank Governor Shapiro for shining a light on the need to make higher education accessible, affordable and high-quality.”

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