The following is a guest column by interim president Rick Esch that appeared in The Bradford Era May 23, 2022.
As the ninth-largest employer in McKean County, the University of Pittsburgh at Bradford is an important contributor to today’s workforce. As an academic hub for northern Pennsylvania, we’re building tomorrow’s workforce, too.
At Pitt-Bradford, we are proud of our expansive network of community partnerships, and we continue to work hand-in-hand with local businesses to help our students gain the skills and experiences needed to thrive in their careers.
It’s a true collaborative effort and one that works.
One of the many successful partnerships our campus has in the community is with American Refining Group, where nearly one in every three ARG employees in key support roles is a Pitt-Bradford graduate.
According to Jon Giberson, ARG’s president and chief operating officer, “Pitt-Bradford’s partnership is integral to achieving our corporate goals. From recruiting talent with the knowledge and skills required by our industry to professional development, Pitt-Bradford’s resources help us build and sustain a successful workforce.”
Another of our successful and longtime partnerships is with Zippo Manufacturing Co.
Mark Paup, Zippo’s president and CEO, said, “Pitt-Bradford has played a critical role in providing interns and extremely valuable long-term employees throughout our companies.”
As the economic landscape around us continues to change, so—too—does our campus.
We’re building a state-of-the-art facility to house our new engineering technology and existing information technology programs for which we have received tremendous support from George Duke, Zippo owner and chairman of the board, as well as others in the community.
These programs and the unique labs and spaces will give students the preparation they need to pursue exciting careers and help to strengthen the regional workforce that needs well-skilled professionals.
“We have invested significantly into this strategic initiative,” Mark Paup said, “with the hopes of developing professionals for manufacturing that in turn can help our companies continue to prosper for the overall benefit of the Bradford community.”
We’re also working closely with Bradford Regional Medical Center to develop a student nurse internship program, which will enhance clinical experiences for our students and, we hope, entice nursing graduates to stay and work in the region.
Unfortunately, there’s a move in Harrisburg that could erase all of the gains we’ve made to date. While state Rep. Marty Causer has always been very supportive of our campus, not everyone in the legislature is. Some in the legislature are looking to eliminate state funding that supports a tuition discount of about 46%—a savings of more than $11,000 annually—for each Pennsylvania student on our campus. It’s a commitment to Pitt-Bradford students and families that state lawmakers have upheld—and found value in—for more than half a century.
On our campus today, nearly 73% of students come from Pennsylvania. Without the state-funded tuition discount, these students would have fewer reasons to stay here and more reasons to seek their education—and perhaps future homes — in nearby states.
And the fallout won’t end there. If some members of Pennsylvania’s House of Representatives get their way—and they cut state funding that Pitt uses to provide in-state discounts for students—many in Bradford will feel the adverse effects. We will lose prospective students, our current students will lose opportunities, and the consequences will ripple out into individual businesses and weaken entire sectors of our community and our local economy.
The fact remains that Pitt-Bradford and our students are well worth the investment. Our campus’s record of success—enabling students to realize their full potential, finding and filling workforce needs, and helping area businesses grow and thrive—speaks for itself.
Locally, millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs will be at risk. Pitt-Bradford injects $75.1 million into the state’s economy annually and sustains 788 jobs. We work with more than 6,000 businesses and vendors, several of them located in the region, to keep our campus operating and provide the best student experience we can. The Pennsylvania House of Representatives cannot afford to jeopardize the local economy and businesses that depend on our campus.
We want to keep supporting our community, and we hope the legislature will give us this opportunity by doing what it has done for more than half a century: funding the state’s appropriation for the University of Pittsburgh and our students.