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College Success Forum Focuses on State Education

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What does it take to make successful Pennsylvania students?  Money, for one thing, said the keynote speaker at a forum held at Robert Morris University Monday.  Ron Cowell, president of the Educational Policy and Leadership Center, said the Corbett administration's $900 million slash to educational funding for the 2011-12 school year influenced the chances of a student succeeding.

"Those cuts ended up causing lots of loss of opportunity for students in school districts all over the state, even in the richest districts," Cowell said.  "Students have fewer opportunities for advanced placement courses, dual enrollment, foreign languages, advanced study of math and science, just fewer academic options for kids."

Cowell predicts Governor Corbett's budget proposal, due to be released Tuesday at 11:30 a.m., will still be "stingy" toward education, but said it's only the beginning of the conversation.

"I think there's a lot of interest in Harrisburg in trying to find some dollars to increase funding for K-12, maybe higher education as well, Cowell said.  "There's a growing understanding that although they can't fix the problem in a single year, they need to make a commitment that they're going to restore this huge amount of money that was cut, and it may take 3 or 4 years to do it, but they need to make that commitment."

Cowell urged community leaders, educators, and students to "speak up" about the state's educational funding.  As 24-year state representative for Allegheny County, He said it's important to tell lawmakers "the public supports investing in public education and higher education."

"No legislator is appointed or has a lifetime job, Cowell said.  "They all get elected, and they do pay attention to what their constituents say."

The forum was put together by Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's College Success Rountable and the Pennsylvania Association for College Admission Counseling.  Representatives from local student outreach organizations, like the Pittsburgh Promise and Negro Education Emergency Drive, also noted funding as a main factor for student success.