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Leading in Giving Back

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What do these groups and people have in common: A fireman who’s rehabbing after being burned, Susquehanna Valley Wildcats Boys Basketball, Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office, La Academia Charter School, Faith Tabernacle, The Common Wheel, and Lancaster County Restaurant Association?

8,000 hours of community service performed annually by Thaddeus Stevens students

These are just a few of the community groups and organizations that use Thaddeus Stevens College facilities at no cost or low cost. The multipurpose activity center (MAC) is the most often requested facility, but other groups make use of classrooms,
the track, Mellor Auditorium, Women’s Center, Jones Conference Room, Hands Woods, and even the front lawn.

Here are some examples of community groups meeting at Thaddeus Stevens College:

  •  Crispus Attucks holds its Men Who Cook/ Celebrating the Spirit of Juneteenth event in the MAC. The event combines food, fun, music and historical reenactors. It has been held at the MAC for a decade. Last year’s event had 30 cooks and 300 diners. Cheryl Holland Jones, executive director, says her organizers love the air-conditioned space. Although it’s a fundraiser, “We view the event as a way to create community and diversity around food and history,” she says. Crispus Attucks has also held its annual MLK Day Breakfast in the MAC in past years.
  • La Academica charter school holds two events on campus annually, a seniors vs. staff basketball game in late spring and a field day in the football stadium on the last day of school.
  •  Abundant Life Revival Ministry, a Hispanic
    Christian organization, holds worship services in
    the MAC every Sunday.
  • .918 Club seeks to preserve and share the tradition of American letterpress printing. When the organization lost its home in Building Character, Stevens College stepped in with a long-term, no-cost agreement for .918 to use the former Naval Reserve Building on Parkside Avenue, across the street from Thaddeus
    Stevens on Orange. The College’s architecture
    students helped with early designs and blueprints
    for renovating the building.
  • The College’s front lawn hosted the annual Fete
    en Blanc, an extravagant summer party and
    fundraiser, in 2017.
  • The Jones Dining Hall is a polling place for the
    sixth precinct in the city’s seventh ward.
  • The Girl Scouts have held several events on
    campus, including leadership training and STEM
  • Other organizations to use Thaddeus Stevens
    facilities at no charge include NAACP, Special
    Olympics, AHEDD and Faith Tabernacle.

Opening its doors to the community is part of the College’s long tradition of community service. In fact, Stevens College students perform more than 8,000 hours of community service for nonprofits from Philadelphia to the Pittsburgh area.

Thaddeus Stevens masonry students volunteered in October to help create new gardens and landscaping at La Academia charter school. The students installed a paver patio and prepared beds for shrubs, flowers, and trees. 

College @ the Leading Edge

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Closing the gap

The skills gap describes a misalignment between educational supply and economic demand, and it highlights the need for skills-driven degrees that prepare students for emerging careers and address workforce shortages. While many institutions of higher education face an uncertain future,  Thaddeus Stevens is poised at education’s leading edge—offering a direct path to rewarding careers and fulfilling lives, yet without burdening graduates with insurmountable debt.

College that meets the growing demand for skilled workers

A report by the Manufacturing Institute predicts that nearly 3.5 million US manufacturing jobs will open up over the next decade, but the skills gap will result in 2 million of those jobs going

The Business Roundtable says companies are having a difficult time filling jobs that require specialized skills, but not necessarily a traditional four-year degree, such as welders, energy and computer technicians, mechanics and tool and die makers. And with baby boomers retiring in record numbers, workforce shortages are accelerating.

That’s why two-year technical degree holders are beginning to outpace the annual earnings of many four-year graduates, according to Kevin Fleming, a national advocate of career and technical education (CTE). Employers are also aggressively recruiting. At Thaddeus Stevens, 1,300 regional employers with more than 3,000 job openings actively recruited members of the Class of 2017, of which there were only 415. That’s 8+ jobs per graduate.

“The STEM jobs currently needed nationally require hands-on technical skills, contextualized general education understanding, and industry credentials,” explains Fleming, dean of instruction for career and technical education programs at Norco College, Calif., who spoke at a Thaddeus Stevens event in February 2017. “We are producing many college graduates, but too few possess the employability, technical, and professional skills STEM employers are seeking.”

"Not only do our graduates find good jobs," says Laurie Grove, "we see so many of them moving into supervisory roles within the first years of employment."

Giving students tools for work and for life

Graduates of Thaddeus Stevens leave with more than just job-based skills. They’re prepared for work—and for life.

The depth and breadth of the College’s technical curriculum is designed to support soft-skills development, including teamwork, oral presentations, and long-term projects, which build social, communications and time management skills. In addition, the College’s General Studies requirements further develop communications, critical thinking and global awareness. Each college major has one or more industry mentors who have a regular presence in technical labs to conduct mock interviews, discuss careers and offer job shadowing.

Thaddeus Stevens also offers students applied learning experiences in just two years that rival or surpass opportunities at many four-year institutions. The College’s Home Construction Program is a great example, with students from several construction programs collaborating to build award-winning duplex homes in the community. A large percentage of students participate in paid internships, many of which lead to full-time offers prior to graduation.

“Over the past three years, 98 percent of employers we have surveyed say they are satisfied or very satisfied with the level of preparation of our graduates entering the workforce,” said Laurie
Grove, the College’s director of career services. “Not only do our graduates find good jobs, we see so many of them moving into supervisory roles within the first few years of employment.”

A golden ratio: low student debt/ high employability

And all this costs a lot less.

Nationwide, 44 million people owe $1.3 trillion in student debt. That’s more than the gross domestic product of Russia. The average 2016 graduate has more than $37,000 in student loan debt.

2 year technical degree

234 internships

415 students recruited by

1,300 regional employers

“Statistics like these have people questioning the value of higher education altogether, which is a shame,” says Dean of Enrollment Michael DeGroft. “You can find value in higher education—you just need the right degree.”

The average student loan debt for Thaddeus Stevens graduates is only about $7,000. Importantly, more than half of all students qualify for the Stevens Grant, which covers tuition, housing, meals, tools, and textbooks.

“These students are on the fast-track to a high-demand job with little or no debt as they start their career,” DeGroft says.

A fast return on educational investment

Compared to the general higher education landscape, the return on investment at Thaddeus Stevens is obvious.

Nationwide, it is estimated that half of university graduates are under-employed in what are known as “gray-collar jobs,” or positions that do not require the education they have received, according to Kevin Fleming. Meanwhile, four out of five Thaddeus Stevens graduates are employed full-time,
in their majors, immediately after graduation. Total graduate placement is between 96 and 99 percent.

Further, more than one in six grads from the Class of 2017 reported starting income of more than $50,000, which is a average debt-to-salary ratio of just 15 percent. That’s compared to the average bachelor’s degree holder, whose student debt-to-salary ratio is closer to 74 percent.

Dominic Bridi started on that path to a bachelor’s degree. But he’s thankful he changed course. As tuition continues to rise, students take on more debt to complete a degree only to compete with more baccalaureate graduates for fewer jobs. That’s why Dominic thinks more students should consider
their alternatives.

“A lot of high schools—and parents, too—push four-year schools,” he says. “I wish more of them would offer that there’s another option.”

Kevin Fleming's Success in the New Economy