Higher education

Presentation highlights mission of NPRC

“I can’t be any more excited than I am,” said Commissioner Jeff Eggleston of the Northern Pennsylvania Regional College choosing Warren as the home of its administrative offices.

The NPRC will serve Cameron, Crawford, Elk, Erie, Forest, McKean, Potter, Venango, and Warren counties. Its goal is to “provide affordable and accessible education, and training that leads to family-sustaining careers,” according to its mission statement. In order to do that, it will make use of non-traditional settings that make it neither a brick-and-mortar nor an “online” college.

Classes will be delivered in a variety of ways, according to a presentation made at Wednesday’s regular meeting of the Warren County Commissioners. Those ways include via live interactive technology, in classroom settings, and through hands-on opportunities with equipment and in lab settings.

Currently, according to the presentation, classes are offered in 14 locations throughout the nine-county region and more sites are expected to come on board over the next year. The NPRC model seeks to “make the best use of existing space and equipment across the region to deliver its courses and technical training.”

Funding for the NPRC, which administration describes as “essentially a community college,” differs from that of traditional community colleges. Funding for the NPRC comes from state appropriations, student tuition and fees, and grants and other donations, meaning that, according to Wednesday’s presentation, “The NPRC requires no municipal, county or school district tax dollars.”

Tuition for the NPRC is at rates consistent with community colleges across the state, and upon accreditation, students will be able to apply financial aid awards to their tuition.

“Plans to seek accreditation are currently underway and will be finalized soon,” the presentation materials state. “In the meantime, students are eligible for financial aid through an existing partnership with Gannon University that predates the NPRC.”

The NPRC is a two-year institution which offers associates degrees leading to either work or pursuit of a higher degree at a four-year institution. It also offers career focused certificate programs similar to those offered at traditional community colleges. The programs offered are designed to reflect the needs local business, industry and service providers, according to Wednesday’s presentation.

Starting in May, the NPRC will begin offering technical training in collaboration with Pennsylvania College of Technology Workforce Development and Continuing Education.

The first trainings will be sequential and offer industrial math, blueprint reading, and fundamentals of GD&T at sites in Coudersport, St. Marys, Warren, Meadville, and Erie.

Originally, once the NPRC chose Warren as the location of its administrative offices, the empty South Street School on Warren’s east side was the intended structure in which the offices would be housed. “Upon further review, the redevelopment of the property was too costly and an inability to generate long term plans pushed the college administration and the local organizers to abandon the property as a location,” the presentation states.

“Multiple buildings were researched in short order, with one making it through the rigors of a second site selection process, which included heavy input from the now established NPRC administration.”

That building was the former Warren National Bank building on Liberty Street in downtown Warren. The list price of the structure, according to Wednesday’s presentation, is $595,000, but the WCDA has secured a negotiated purchase price of $450,000. Renovations on the building are required for the WCDA to secure a traditional 15-year mortgage on the property.

Once the purchase is complete, according to the presentation, that renovation process — to the tune of $1.4 million — can begin. That is why the commissioners approved the $450,000 bridge loan on Wednesday, it goes on to say. “The temporary loan will last less than a year while the rehabilitation commences… in the event of any type of default by the WCDA, the County will take over ownership of the property and the WCDA will be responsible for any lingering liabilities or liens related to the property.”

Funding for the renovations is coming from multiple sources. The Commonwealth has awarded a $1 million Redevelopment Assistance Capital Program grant to the City, of which City Council has designated $640,000 for redevelopment of the building. “The RCAP is a state grant, which signifies a massive investment by the state in our rural community, requires a 50 percent local match,” Wednesday’s presentation states. “In this case, three sources have pledge contributions for the project, including the Dart Foundation ($500,000), the Community Foundation of Warren ($200,000), and the County Commissioners ($100,000).”

Renovations will include $437,000 spent on the fifth floor of the building, where the NPRC will be located. The remainder of renovation funds will “make a variety of upgrades to the building which will allow for the occupation by a variety of organizations.” Electrical upgrades — including a new entry transformer and a comprehensive electrical overhaul separating meters by floor, making it easier to house multiple entities; HVAC upgrades — including individual heating and air conditioning system by floor, bathroom and plumbing upgrades — including remodeling all restrooms and making the ADA compliant, and other ADA code compliance measures will be the areas focused on in the renovation process. Renovations will be completed with the focus on getting the NPRC occupying the fifth floor as soon as possible.

Renovations are beneficial to the county as much as they are to the NPRC and other tenants’ work environments, said Eggleston on Wednesday. The building currently produces around $14,000 in property taxes but, with the proposed renovations, will generate closer to $45,000 in tax revenue that will be divided between the county, the city, and the Warren County School District.

More information on the College and its course offerings and staff can be found online at http://regionalcollegepa.org. The vote to approve the agreement with WCDA was two commissioners supporting, Kafferlin and Eggleston, and one opposed, Commissioner Morrison. The agreement is available online at http://warrencountypa.net. Any questions for the Commissioners Office regarding the agreement may be directed to Pam Matve, Chief Clerk, by phone at (814) 728-3402 or by email at pmatve@warren-county.net.