'Grow PA' Plan Helps Solve Economic, Higher Education Challenges

Story Stream
recent articles

Young people graduating from high school face tough choices about what to do next. For many, college costs too much. But that problem is just one among many that threaten the future of our Commonwealth.

Higher education is expensive. College enrollment is declining. Kindergarten classes are shrinking. Our population is aging. Too many Pennsylvania high school graduates are won over by out-of-state colleges. And even many of those who do stay in Pennsylvania for college are taking their talents to other states after they earn their degree.

As a result, projections for Pennsylvania’s population growth are meager. The Center for Rural Pennsylvania estimates that the state’s population will grow by just 1.6% through 2050, compared to 20% population growth nationally.

If Pennsylvania fails to reverse these trends, the state will face even bigger problems down the road in the form of bigger budget deficits, higher taxes, and increased costs to care for an aging population. These will be followed by less representation in Congress, less federal funding returning to Pennsylvania, and fewer career opportunities for those who remain in the state.

It’s a downward spiral that threatens our future prosperity. Rethinking how we approach post-secondary education and job training is the key to reversing these trends and charting a brighter course.

That’s why we recently announced the Grow PA post-secondary and career-preparation reform plan – to ensure that Pennsylvania can rely on a well-trained workforce that is ready to step into family-sustaining careers in the industries that our Commonwealth needs most.

Grow PA creates two programs to keep more of our homegrown talent and encourage the best and brightest students from other states to come to Pennsylvania.

The Grow PA Scholarship Grant Program would provide a strong financial incentive – up to $5,000 per year – for in-state students to pursue careers in high-demand industries, including agriculture, energy, health care, education, law enforcement, and more. In addition, a new Grow PA Merit Scholarship Program would offer tuition at in-state rates to high-performing students from other states if they agree to attend schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education.

For both programs, students would be required to live and work in Pennsylvania for a period of time after they graduate. Given the amount of tuition savings these students could realize, we think they’ll find it a fair trade.

This approach also acknowledges Pennsylvania’s critical workforce needs. We need more teachers, more law enforcement, more farmers, more large-animal veterinarians, and more health care professionals. Grow PA accomplishes these goals by matching our educational programs to the high-quality jobs available here at home.

Enacting these programs would send a strong message to young people: we want you to get an affordable, quality education in Pennsylvania, advance your career here, and put down roots here.

Grow PA doesn’t just create new programs to attract and retain talent; it also expands other successful educational programs. This includes dual enrollment, Ready to Succeed Scholarships, the Targeted Industry Support Program, and the Foster/Adopted Child Program.

The plan isn’t just about college. We will also include investments in our career and technical centers to keep the pipeline of young skilled workers open for growing Pennsylvania employers.

Our plan also adds a critical layer of accountability for funding dedicated to state-related institutions like Pitt, Penn State, and Temple by creating a performance-based funding model for these institutions. This will ensure that every dollar invested in these schools provides the best possible outcome for taxpayers.

It’s widely acknowledged that we must do something to improve Pennsylvania’s higher education system. We can’t rely on pie-in-the-sky, big-government solutions that judge the state’s performance solely based on how many taxpayer dollars we spend. We need practical solutions that focus on positive outcomes for our students, families, and communities.

Grow PA provides a real blueprint to make Pennsylvania more competitive in higher education, workforce development, and economic success. We believe that our approach can rally bipartisan support and begin helping young people right away.

We are hopeful that this plan will be the start of positive new trends – young people coming here, staying here, getting jobs here, buying homes here, and helping our communities grow healthier and more vibrant.

Show comments Hide Comments