The Impact of Rural Pennsylvania Community Colleges

Summary of Study

West Chester University professors visited seven rural Pennsylvania community colleges that are part of two community college systems. Based on their research, there is a "direct, positive relationship between the size of a rural community college campus and its economic impact on its host county." 

Overall, when considering the full economic impact, the participating community colleges "support 543 jobs in their respective counties," contribute nearly $32 million to their communities' Gross Regional Product (GRP), and add $50.1 million to their host counties' output. In addition, "for every one rural community college job, a further 0.47 job is supported."

The report classifies Pennsylvania's community colleges as either a college hub or satellite site. These colleges not only promote equity, but also invest in enhancing their communities. Their locations, however, mean that they remain "underused and misunderstood." "Legislators and the public need to be educated on the benefits of attending community colleges and earning credentials in technical fields," the authors write. 

The authors call for state policymakers to increase "line-item funding for community colleges’ operating budgets." Second, the Public Higher Education Funding Commission should "amend its membership to include key stakeholders, including rural community college leaders." Third, state funding to "enhance and expand . . . partnerships between secondary and post-secondary institutions could encourage additional students to enroll in higher education and grow the skilled workforce in Pennsylvania." Finally, the state should continue to fund the Workforce & Economic Development Network of Pennsylvania program. Rural community college leaders should serve as program administrators. 

Read the full report here

Feature Charticle

Center for Rural Pennsylvania


  • Large campuses have budgets greater than $5 million over the next largest campus.
  • Based on the most recently available data (2018-2019 academic year)
  • Value-added and output per $1,000 additional spending columns show the impact of expanding rural community college operations

Read the full report here