Johnstown—Pennsylvania Highlands Community College continues to expand, despite a worrisome cutback in state funding, its president said.
President Walter Asonevich said the college could open a sister campus in Blair County within three years, similar to satellites Pennsylvania Highlands already has opened in Somerset, Huntingdon and Ebensburg.
"We need to put a campus in Blair County," Asonevich said at an annual update last week at the Richland campus. "My dream is there will be a sister campus, equivalent in size to this campus, somewhere in Altoona or Hollidaysburg."
Asonevich said the college has experienced a 35 percent enrollment growth even though state reimbursements have diminished.
"We do an awful lot with very little," he said.
Asonovich pointed to a $1.9 million federal Title III grant, obtained to enhance curriculum, train faculty on the use of technology in the classroom, and provide a career-services center.
The career services center is vital to placing students on the right path, Asonevich said.
"When students come through the front door, it allows us to help them," he said. "A lot of students want to go to college, but don't know why they're attending college. Students who have career goals are more apt to be successful."
The college also received $380,000 as part of a federal Department of Labor grant applied for by 14 community colleges in Pennsylvania.
Last year, Pennsylvania Highlands opened a satellite at Georgian Place in Somerset, where enrollment continues to grow.
"We have enough enrollment coming to the Somerset campus to actually pay the costs of Soemrset," Asonevich said.
At the same time, Pennsylvania Highlands is offering an Associates in the High School program, allowing students to take college courses towards a two-year associate degree while getting earning high-school credits as well.
The program already is being done in Ligonier Valley and Penns Manor, and will be expanded into Greater Johnstown, Richland, Conemaugh Valley, Conemaugh Township and Clearfield next year.
":By the time they finish high school, they're getting their high school diploma and their associates degree," Asonevich said.
He said the college is regularly fine-tuning its curriculum, looking to provide needed skills for businesses in the region such as the burgeoning Marcellus Shale industry.
"Marcellus Shale has a lot of job production," Asonevich said. "We want to position Pennsylvania Highlands to train people for those jobs. That is a strong industry."
Asonevich gave his update in the school's newly remodeled auditorium, updated at a cost of $480,000. He said Pennsylvania Highlands is in the midst of a fundraising campaign with Michael Bodolosky, director of the Pasquerilla Performing Arts Center at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown, to create an endowment to support events held in the auditorium.
"We could have comedians, country bands, nationally known speakers," Asonevich said. "We want to have something that expands and supplements what's going on across the street at the Pasquerilla Center."