Community college group: Buying St. Cyril is only a concept

Apr. 1—Making Villia Sacred Heart the home of a community college is currently only a concept, according to directors of the Susquehanna Valley Community Education Project.

The board has been working for 15 years to establish a community college, asking for a tax of $15 per household from residents it plans to serve in Montour, Northumberland, Snyder and Union counties.

The Susquehanna Valley Community Education Project (SVCEP) is a nonprofit organization with a board of directors facilitating the establishment of the proposed Susquehanna Valley Community College, according to Lenaire Ahlum, founder and executive director of the Susquehanna Valley Community Education Project.

At a Montour County commissioners meeting earlier this week, local community college supporter Mike Kuziak presented the idea of making the 62-acre St. Cyril property, along with eight large buildings listed for sale at more than $9 million, the home of the Susquehanna Valley community college.

Ahlum said this is only a concept.

"While it would be a wonderful location for a potential campus focused on teaching allied health professions, it would take the county commissioners to approve funds to launch a community college and have it approved by the Pennsylvania State Board of Education," Ahlum said.

At the public meeting, Montour County Commissioner Rebecca Dressler questioned why the group needed a physical location to offer the services they desire.

"Why do you need a physical property instead of working with a local tech school and using the resources you already have," Commissioner Rebecca Dressler said.

SVECP has a partnership agreement with Marywood University for accreditation. The partnership will allow students to be awarded college credits through the Susquehanna Valley Community College immediately instead of waiting until the community college is accredited after 3 to 5 years of operations, Ahlum said.

Despite the persistence of the project board, county and state officials continue to be wary of committing taxpayer dollars to the project or even signing letters of support.

Northumberland County Commissioner Sam Schiccatano, contacted after the meeting, said he was familiar with the group and said although he supports a community college, he is 100 percent opposed to taxing residents to fund the college.

"I have no problem with a community college as long as it doesn't cost taxpayers a penny to get one," Schiccatano said.

State Rep. Michael Stender, of Sunbury, also contacted after the meeting, said while he supports higher education, increasing taxes is not the answer.

"I will continue to support higher education in the 108th District," he said. "It's essential college students have necessary resources available that will help them in workforce development but creating another tax for our taxpayers is not the solution.

"We must find another way to support our students," Stender said.

According to Ahlum, the Susquehanna Valley Community College has not received full support from any county, though she claimed there was at least one commissioner in each who supported the project.

"We are excited and hopeful to see the county commissioners be forward-looking in addressing the needs of individuals and the business community as more of our businesses are recognizing the dire challenges of trained worker shortages locally and are advocating on our behalf to bring this project to fruition," Ahlum said.