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County executive candidate proposes free community college program for Allegheny County graduates


If elected as the next Allegheny County Executive, Michael Lamb says he will establish a program to give Allegheny County high school graduates two years of free tuition to the Community College of Allegheny County.

He announced the plan Wednesday night during an event with supporters. Lamb, who now serves as Pittsburgh City Controller, said the program he is calling Allegheny Achievers would expand on the scholarship program for eligible city students, the Pittsburgh Promise.

While the Promise scholarship grants up to $5,000 a year to city students who maintain a 2.5 grade point average and a 90 percent attendance rate, Lamb says those ineligible for the scholarship and all other high school graduates in the county would be eligible for Allegheny Achievers funds. The fund would pay for up to 60 credits at CCAC, which is the equivalent of a two-year associate's degree.

Data from the Allegheny Conference on Community Development shows that more than half of all current job vacancies in the county require training after high school — but not a four-year college degree. Lamb's campaign estimates the program would cost beteen $50 million and $60 million each year. He said he’d find funding for the program by working with local employers, philanthropic groups and the Regional Asset District, which administers a 1 percent countywide sales tax.

Lamb said the goal is to build a workforce that would attract companies.

“Let’s invest in our people, let’s invest in our communities and invest in our infrastructure and create the community that businesses want to locate and where people want to live," he said. "This is one piece of creating a workforce that businesses demand."

Lamb said he has spoken with CCAC officials who say they welcome the program and have the capacity for an increase in enrollment.

While Lamb is making the program part of his campaign, he said he would welcome support for the approach from other County Executive candidates.