Empower Erie Frequently Asked Questions


Why this project?

There is an urgent need for affordable accessible postsecondary job training in Erie County.

  • Erie County’s unemployment rate is twice the state and the nation. Jobs in the manufacturing sector fell by 8.6% (1,900 jobs) in the last 12 months alone. While there have been job gains in some other sectors of the local economy, these were not enough to prevent Erie’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate from reaching 7.1% in October.

  • More than 18% of Erie County residents are living below the poverty level, with nearly 30% in the city of Erie.

  • Recent poverty figures from the Erie School District suggest an even greater educational crisis looming in Erie's urban core. An overwhelming majority of public school age students, 80.1%, are economically disadvantaged. Poverty correlates with poor student performance in the classroom.

  • High school graduation rates in Erie County (82.3%) are lower than the state average (85.3%), with the Erie School District at only 73%, suggesting a great need for remedial programs in the future. Students living in the urban core and adult student who have a family tend to need an accessible, affordable option that specifically prepares them for jobs in Erie.

  • While there is a strong correlation between educational attainment and employment, there is also a growing number of jobs that require post-secondary education. Harvard Graduate School of Business predicts that 30% of the 47 million new jobs expected to be created in the US in the next 10 years will require at least an associate degree or certificate.

  • Advanced manufacturers in Erie County estimate that 50% of their workforce will retire in the next 10 years. Most of those jobs will require postsecondary training; but not a bachelor’s degree.

  • Existing opportunities are either very expensive or not readily accessible to a large percentage of those in need of them. The current climate is resulting in a population of under-educated young people from Erie County entering the local job market at an increasing rate over the next generation.
  • The cost of for-profit schools is beyond the means of many residents and lower cost, geographically accessible options cannot be delivered at the scale needed to meet the demand.

  • A community college is an open-access, readily affordable institution, intending to provide academic services to the entire community, regardless of prior academic achievement.

  • Developing an accessible, affordable network for education and training is one of the goals of Emerge 2040, the region’s 25-year plan for sustainability. An Erie Community College could provide a solid anchor for those efforts. The Erie community college can become the hub of the wheel that connects all workforce development efforts in a cohesive plan of education, so long as it meets the priorities of the community.

  • A vast body of local research shows that averting a worsening public emergency in education can best be achieved by focused investment in three tent pole initiatives: early education, quality public schools, and a community college.
Why a stand alone community college?
What is the process?
Who will conduct the study?



Website, social media help non...

Posted on April 13th, 2017 at 5:28 PM

Empower Erie has created empowererie.org, and information on the community college effort can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.


Washington state’s lauded co...

Posted on April 3rd, 2017 at 12:21 PM

Fifty years ago on April 3, the state created a system of community colleges that ushered in dramatic growth in the network of schools that now enroll 300,000 students.


WVU Study: Pierpont Community ...

Posted on March 29th, 2017 at 8:58 AM

Community colleges are beginning to receive more attention as students realize they are able to receive certification and degrees in a shorter period of time for less money.


Survey finds support for Erie-...

Posted on March 26th, 2017 at 9:03 AM

The survey of 500 randomly-selected Erie County residents was conducted in late February and early March as part a state-required feasibility study.


Community college could help m...

Posted on February 10th, 2017 at 2:59 PM

Recently I read that New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo pledged to cover tuition costs at state colleges for hundreds of thousands of middle- and low-income New Yorkers.


Empower Hour ...

Posted on February 3rd, 2017 at 9:53 AM

Our first Empower Hour attracted more than 100 business, non-profit and community leaders in support of an Erie County Community College.


Nonprofit hosts information se...

Posted on February 2nd, 2017 at 2:54 PM

Thursday evening event gives business, community leaders an opportunity to learn more about the community college proposal.


Most colleges enroll many stud...

Posted on January 30th, 2017 at 3:03 PM

At more than 200 campuses, more than half of incoming students must take remedial courses.


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