Survey finds support for Erie-area community college
This article was originally written by Kevin Flowers and published on GoErie.com on March 26, 2017.
A recent telephone survey indicates there is strong interest locally in launching an Erie County community college, according to a nonprofit group that is working to create the school.
According to the survey, 72 percent of the 500 Erie County residents surveyed, or 360 people, said they support the establishment of a community college. The nonprofit, Empower Erie, released results of the survey to the Erie Times-News late this past week.
The independent 12-minute telephone survey of randomly-selected respondents was conducted in late February and early March and commissioned by Empower Erie as part of state-required feasibility study.
Parker Phillips, an Erie-based consulting firm handling the feasibility study for Empower Erie, retained Research America of Newton Square, Pennsylvania, to conduct the telephone survey, which included questions about the need for a community college, the need for specific degrees/curriculum, program offerings and other factors.
The questions were designed to fulfill the Pennsylvania Department of Education's requirements regarding determining demand, support for and the curriculum of a community college.
"This is an important piece of the research component of a feasibility study being conducted in connection with the push for a community college for Erie County," said Ron DiNicola, Empower Erie's chairman. "This independent survey is just one piece of our work, and it affirms that Erie County residents see the value of establishing a community college as a source of affordable higher-education options that connect people to jobs."
The survey also found:
‒82 percent of respondents between the ages of 18 and 34 said it is either "important" or "very important" for the Erie region to have a community college.
‒78 percent of women surveyed said having a community college is "important" or "very important" to the region.
‒75 percent said they believe there are enough potential students in Erie County to support a community college.
‒77 percent of respondents believe it is "important" or "very important" for a community college to be involved with local economic development efforts.
‒68 percent of those surveyed said they follow news about the possibility of a new Erie County community college "closely" or "very closely."
‒The top reason respondents cited for supporting the community college was the cost of four-year postsecondary education.
‒The top reason respondents cited for opposing a local community college was the abundance of other colleges in the area.
Those who completed the survey who are between the ages of 18 and 24 were entered into a drawing for a chance to win their choice of a virtual reality headset or a high capacity cellphone charger, said Nichole Parker, a co-owner of Parker Philips. She added that offering incentives for people in that age group to complete a survey is a common industry practice.
The survey had a margin of error of plus or minus 4.4 percent.
Erie County Council on Dec. 21 signed off on allocating $60,000 to study whether creating an Erie County community college is feasible. Previous efforts to organize a local community college failed for lack of a prime financial sponsor.
The nonprofit's plan has support from the Erie Community Foundation, the Erie County Gaming Revenue Authority and the Susan Hirt Hagen Fund for Transformational Philanthropy, which collectively have contributed $300,000 toward the effort.
The Hagen Fund and ECGRA have promised an additional $3.7 million if Erie County Council ultimately votes to create a community college.
Roy Church, the retired president of Lorain County Community College, near Cleveland, has been hired to work on the plan. Church is helping Empower Erie develop curriculum for the proposed college.
Parker Philips is also working with Vanessa Lund, a Seattle workforce development and market research consultant, and Kate Shaw, a former deputy secretary of postsecondary education for the state, to develop Empower Erie's feasibility study, which could be finished by mid-April.