Northern PA Regional College (NPRC): Background and Erie County Context

Erie County citizens are seeking more information about the proposed NPRC/Erie County memorandum of agreement. Many events and conversations over the last 5 years have led to this proposal.   

  • In 2014 the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania passed Senate Bill 1000, establishing a rural regional community college in a multicounty rural area that was underserved by comprehensive community college education and workforce development.

 

  • Erie County first engaged with what is now known as the NPRC in 2014, when the PA Secretary of Education added the county to its regional service area. As the board of trustees was being formed to develop a detailed plan to create the college, an Erie County representative was appointed a seat on the board and the board was sworn in on December 2014.

 

  • Early on, the board of trustees asked its member from Erie to convene a subcommittee of Erie County stakeholders to make recommendations for the NPRC’s educational delivery model in Erie County. This subcommittee included employers, educators, and community, economic and workforce developers. The subcommittee presented its recommendations to the NPRC board in November 2015. 

 

  • The board accepted the Erie County subcommittee’s recommendations, built them into the college plan, and submitted the plan to the state for approval. The state-approved the NPRC’s plan in May 2017 officially establishing the college, and the board of trustees began to develop necessary policies, hire staff and faculty, secure office and classroom space, develop classes, and recruit students. 

 

  • To address identified needs on the Board, the board of trustees appointed a second Erie County resident to its membership in 2017.

 

  • The NPRC began offering classes in Erie County in the summer of 2017, and currently operates six Erie County locations. Additional sites across the county will be launched to meet growing demand. Since summer 2017, the NPRC has served 263 students, including 99 from Erie County. 

 

  • In May 2019, the NPRC secured its degree-granting status from the PA Department of Education, authorizing the college to award any type of diploma, technical or career training certificate and associate degrees in the arts, sciences, technologies or general education approved by the Board.

 

  • There is a deeper relationship now being proposed by Erie County officials and the NPRC. Through this arrangement, Erie County would establish a facility in which the NPRC would deliver education and training designed to meet the needs of local employers and students. An Erie County committee would be created to advise the NPRC on key curriculum. The NPRC Executive Director of Erie Operations and Workforce Development would be intimately involved, as would the NPRC’s board members from Erie County.

 

  • At a special meeting of the Board of Trustees called in July 2019, the two Erie County residents serving on NPRC’s Board of Trustees, in a unanimous Board vote, embraced this deeper Erie County collaboration, calling it an innovative approach that will not place an extra tax burden on local citizens, a meaningful collaboration that will benefit people who live, work and do business in Erie County, and a tremendous opportunity to maximize resources and nimbly respond to local education and training needs.

 

  • The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the regional accrediting body through which NPRC is seeking accreditation, states “that a college or university must be sensitive to the conditions of the society in which it exists, but it must also be free to determine how to be most responsive and responsible. Political interference in the affairs of an educational institution presents a threat to its freedom and effectiveness. Direct intervention by elected or appointed officials, political parties, or pressure groups in the selection of faculty, the determination of curricula, textbooks, course content, or in admissions or retention policies, injects factors which are often inimical to the fulfillment of an institution’s mission.”

NPRC is still hopeful that Erie County will sign the MOA and establish the Erie County Committee, so it may begin important and valuable work. NPRC will continue to address Erie County’s needs consistent with our legislative mandate and mission.  

For more information from NPRC on their position in Erie County, please contact Marketing and PR Coordinator Abigail Petrosky at apetrosky@rrcnpa.org.