2 min read November 2021 — Every year, more than 25,000 students enroll at the Community College of Allegheny County (CCAC). In an interview with Invest:, CCAC President Quintin Bullock discussed the significance of CCAC to the region as well as the impact the pandemic has had on both students and the college itself.
What differentiates CCAC from other educational institutions in the region?
CCAC is an institution of choice for many Southwestern Pennsylvania residents in the region. We have four campuses and four centers located throughout the region, with a very diverse student population. Fifty-six percent of our students are women, 44% are men. Sixty-seven percent of our students are part-time, our average age is 26 and 29% of our student body are minorities. We also pride ourselves on our affordability: 69% of our CCAC students graduate debt free. Students who choose CCAC as their institution of choice save $24,000 versus public colleges and universities and $65,000 versus private institutions. Additionally, 42% of our students could not have continued their education if they had not been at CCAC, and following graduation 92% of our students stay to live and work in the region.
What is the economic impact of CCAC?
We recently completed an economic impact study with Emsi that details the value CCAC adds to the region. First, the study confirmed that CCAC benefits county businesses by increasing consumer spending and supplying a steady flow of qualified, trained workers to the workforce. Second, CCAC enriches the lives of students by raising their lifetime earnings, helping them achieve their individual potential. Third, the college benefits state and local taxpayers through increased tax receipts and reduced demand for government support and social services. Fourth, the college benefits society as a whole in Pennsylvania by creating a more prosperous economy and generating a variety of savings through the improved lifestyles of students.
For every $1 of public money invested in CCAC, $2.50 is returned to the taxpayer. In addition, for every $1 students invest in their education, students gain $4.70 in lifetime earnings. We are also able to show that students who have their associate degree increase their earnings by $11,000 annually compared to individuals with just a high school diploma.
How is demand for programs at CCAC faring today?
We’ve been able to attract an increased number of students to CCAC. Although not every discipline has seen this increase, the number of part-time students seeking to balance their work, life and educational experiences is rising. In response to the growing demands of our region, we’re seeing significant growth in our trades, including electrical, carpentry, construction, sheet metal, iron workers and heavy equipment. We’re also seeing increased interest in our health care programs as well as logistics.
What needs has your student population expressed throughout the pandemic?
Many of our students have shown a need for additional financial support, and we’ve worked very closely with our foundation to help identify additional resources to assist them, whether that be through emergency GAP funding, lending laptops or providing internet access. As well, we’ve sought federal and state dollars to supplement the delivery of support services by way of CCAC navigators, professionals who help students access housing, food, mental health and other services. We have also created food cupboards across our locations to assist students with food insecurity during these challenging times.
How can the region work to keep talent local after students graduate?
Whereas 92% of CCAC graduates live and work in Southwestern Pennsylvania, there is an ongoing conversation to increase the number of four-year college graduates who remain in the region, since approximately 50% of them leave to work elsewhere. While our region offers some of the finest institutions of higher learning in the nation, the region as a whole is reassessing the education experience to include an enhanced social environment for our students. We must reassess housing, transportation and all of the key things that students look for in the communities in which they have an interest in living, working and raising their families.
How is CCAC working to ensure that the workforce needs of the region are satisfied?
We are constantly seeking ways to strengthen our skilled workforce pipeline and respond to the region’s talent needs. Specifically at CCAC, we pride ourselves on working very closely with business and industry to learn and understand the needs of our region to ensure that the curriculum and training we deliver are expertly preparing our students. We are also constructing a new workforce facility to expand our training capacity in some high-demand fields of study, including robotics, artificial intelligence, business automation systems, process technology, cybersecurity, information technologies and a new school for culinary arts.
How has the pandemic impacted the use of technology at CCAC?
A silver lining of the pandemic is that it provided an opportunity for CCAC to explore and experience the true value technology can bring to the delivery of instruction, supportive services as well as college operations. Working closely with academic leaders across the college, we’ve been able to engage in meaningful discussions on new instructional technologies that are engaging, motivating and promote student success. We’ve made major investments in our classrooms, ensuring that they are equipped with advanced technology in keeping with modern learning environments. We’ve also expanded IT infrastructure across the college to accommodate all the various forms of technology that are being utilized at CCAC.
For more information, visit: https://www.ccac.edu/