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House of Representatives
Session of 2015 - 2016 Regular Session


Posted: February 26, 2015 01:57 PM
From: Representative Jim Christiana
To: All House members
Subject: Connecting Job Creators, Community Colleges, and Low-Income Pennsylvanians
In the near future, I plan to introduce legislation that would redesign the Keystone Education Yields Success Program (KEYS), allowing students the ability to graduate with Associate Degrees from Pennsylvania’s 14 community colleges.

The KEYS program directly connects Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients who are interested in going to school to earn their way out of poverty with job creators in their communities. Working in conjunction with the state’s 14 community colleges, students in KEYS must enroll in one of the state’s High Priority Occupations (HPOs). This program both closes skills gaps needed for employers looking to fill open jobs and simultaneously encourages students to enroll in programs that will lead to family-sustaining jobs after graduation.

KEYS does not pay tuition, and students must apply for financial aid just like their peers. The program specifically provides career mentoring, tutoring, additional academic support, and facilitates additional supportive services for students coming from lives of poverty. After speaking directly with community college facilitators in my district, it has become clear these one-on-one support networks provide the extra push needed for students who are attempting to break out of lives of poverty and enter into self-sustaining lifestyles.

Currently, due to specific TANF requirements, recipients are typically only able to use this program for one year, which often leads to a large amount of dropouts in the program. In fact, in a study performed by advocates for the low-income population, KEYS enrollment has dropped by almost 50 percent due to the change of regulation only allowing students to apply their vocational/educational hours for 12 months, and therefore partake in the program for only one year. This is an example of well-intended goals set up to underachieve from the outset. Likewise, this is also a prime example of the state spending hard-earned tax dollars to support well-intended efforts, but failing to maximize its potential efforts.

By extending this regulation to 24 months, KEYS students are able to successfully complete an Associate Degree, which typically takes two years.

For ongoing oversight, students will need to continue to show successful grade point averages and ongoing completion of courses necessary for graduation and student development.

Introduced as HB934