The College Access Center of Delaware County announced last week it will close its doors on June 30. Center Director Julani Ghana said the decision was made by the presidents of Widener, Neumann, Penn State Brandywine, and Cheyney universities; and Swarthmore and Delaware County Community colleges.
Ghana said the decision was based primarily on lack of funding.
Referred to collectively as the Chester Higher Education Council (CHEC), the area’s college presidents created the College Access Center (CAC), which is located on the campus of Widener University and services the entire county. The mission of the center that opened in 2009, is to assist students and families in the pursuit of their future post secondary education by providing free academic support, college and career services.
“Unfortunately, the presidents of these institutions have decided to ‘dissolve’ their partnership and will no longer ‘collectively lead’ this college and career effort in our region,” Ghana wrote. “This ultimately means that the College Access Center will be closing at the end of this upcoming school year and our county will not have a place where parents and students can come for this important assistance. Moreover, it means that our county will not have a collective voice when it comes to regional and national issues involving college and career readiness.”
Ghana said prior to the CAC’s creation, students were forced to either attend programs in Philadelphia or pay out of pocket for this type of assistance. He is encouraging parents to continue sending their children to the center throughout the remainder of winter and during the spring.
“We want to help as many of our students get the assistance they need so that they are prepared, confident, and ready to get on their road to success,” Ghana said. “…It’s hard to believe that these six institutional leaders (not to mention others in the county who could also be invited to participate) can’t “collectively lead” an effort like this and maintain this private and public partnership on behalf of our children and families.”
Ghana added that the presidents in office at the time of the establishment of the center are no longer with those six universities and colleges,
Widener University, in a released statement on Monday, promised to reinforce its commitment to providing educational access and community services to the people of Chester.
Widener President Julie E. Wollman said the CHEC board’s decision has no impact on the university’s support for college readiness initiatives.
“Widener University remains deeply committed to supporting and improving college access for high school students in Chester and across Delaware County,” Wollman said. “We see these changes as an opportunity to remove geographic barriers to services for those who lacked transportation to the (CAC).”
Widener said it remains open to opportunities for future collaboration and looks forward to learning the results of a study being conducted by two major community agencies to explore ways to provide services to high school students.
In addition to a large complement of existing services, Widener began additional educational services to the community this fall. It began sending undergraduate students into Chester High School three days a week where they tutor and mentor high school students. They also provide college preparation services, such as help with the college search and application processes.
In addition, Widener students provide after-school tutoring at the Boys & Girls Club of Chester, which is available to students up to age 18.
In addition to this work, the university operates the Widener Partnership Charter School in Chester, Community Engaged Teacher Education, discounted tuition for city employees, their spouses and children, and other programs.
Neumann University also remains committed to the City of Chester and has, in conjunction with the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia, provided services and financial support to Drexel-Neumann Academy, an elementary school in the city.
“Neumann is very involved with the students in Chester and will continue to do so,” said Steve Bell, director of communications. “We offer tutoring and other related services at Drexel-Neumann Academy to assist Chester students.”