Yudichak to introduce legislation to enact PA Skills Compact, providing two years of tuition-free training for every Pennsylvanian
Harrisburg, PA - Pennsylvania Treasurer Joe Torsella along with Senator John Yudichak today announced the beginning of legislative efforts to implement the Pennsylvania Skills Compact—a two-year, tuition-free higher education program to expand opportunity for every Pennsylvanian. The two years of training could be used to attain associate’s degrees, technical certifications and other professional and occupational credentials, as detailed in Treasury’s August newsletter.
“The PA Skills Compact is the bold, innovative idea we need to help repair the financial stability of Pennsylvania families. Too many Pennsylvanians have been priced out of higher education or been weighed down from debt. I thank Senator Yudichak for leading the efforts to make this program a reality for Pennsylvanians and look forward to productive, bipartisan conversations with legislative leaders in both houses to put this plan into action.”
Pennsylvania State Treasurer, Joe Torsella
“The PA Skills Compact is an educational and economic investment that will help expedite Pennsylvania’s recovery from the COVID-19 crisis. By providing more people access to postsecondary education, we will be able to support our institutions of higher education, fill jobs, and create more economic development opportunities for our communities.”
State Senator John Yudichak (I-Luzerne/Carbon)
The PA Skills Compact would cover additional tuition and mandatory fees for Pennsylvanians after all federal and state grant monies available to a student were exhausted. Modeled after a similar program in Tennessee, 15 states currently have programs of this nature in place.
The PA Skills Compact ensures every Pennsylvanian has access to job training. It is estimated that up to 42 percent of layoffs due to COVID-19 could become permanent, and those hit the hardest are those without any postsecondary education attainment.
In 2019, a survey by the Pennsylvania Chamber of Commerce highlighted the increased need for highly skilled workers, as 22 percent of employers reported a shortage of qualified applicants as the “single most important issue” facing them. The PA Skills Compact can help address this issue while helping displaced and new workers, regardless of financial status, fill existing skills gaps and meet the changing needs of a post-COVID job market. This access to affordable higher education will boost postsecondary attainment and help expedite the Commonwealth’s financial recovery.
The program would allow any Pennsylvanian to enroll at eligible institutions in the state, including community colleges, technical schools and four-year institutions offering 2-year degrees.
As a last-dollar program, the PA Skills Compact is designed to be a practical program to benefit taxpayers with minimum impact to the General Fund. Analysis in August 2020 from the Upjohn Institute for Employment Research found the total program would cost no more than $84 million in the first year, depending on final program plans, while still accounting for an estimated 20 percent increase in student enrollment. Impact to the General Fund can be mitigated by the leverage of federal funds for workforce development, COVID-related relief, and higher education funding. Arkansas was able to fund its free-tuition program by repurposing federal workforce development dollars.
For more information about the PA Skills Compact, please see the August 2020 Treasury Notes newsletter.