Having only a high school diploma doesn't cut it these days.

Anyone who wants to earn a decent living has to have some form of higher education.

Unfortunately, not everyone can afford a four-year college, which can cost upwards of tens of thousands of dollars a year.

Some people might not even want to attend a university; maybe they just want to learn a trade and jump right in to the workforce.

In both cases, community colleges are often the answers.

Harrisburg Area Community College, with a branch in York, works with area employers to determine their needs and crafts programs that teach students those skills.

Tuition is less than at four-year schools, and because it's a commuter college without the added expense of room and board, the overall cost is significantly cheaper.

But it might not stay that way.

Gov. Tom Corbett's proposed budget calls for flat funding of higher education -- which was an improvement for the state university system that has been targeted for cuts in the governor's previous budgets.

But even flat funding has some community colleges worried.

Diane Borsak is the executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges, a nonprofit membership organization that includes HACC. She said employers are constantly demanding new programs to keep up with training, and the community colleges can't do that without more money. If that money doesn't come from the state, it will have to come from somewhere else, she said.


That means tuition hikes, possibly as high as 10 percent, Borsak said, adding,. "I don't know how we'll be able to go below 10 percent."

Community colleges are the most affordable option in the state, she added, and if a tuition hike puts HACC's costs out of the range of what someone can afford, people won't have a place to turn for a post-secondary degree.

Already the Manufacturers Association of South Central Pennsylvania is warning that young adults entering the workforce lack even the most basic skills for factory jobs.

Members lists openings for machinists, welders, maintenance mechanics, electrical technicians, automation workers, professional engineers and more, according to executive director Michael Smeltzer.

"We're trying to fill those positions, but there's a severe skills gap in the world of manufacturing," he said. "The technology has increased significantly, but the skill of the workforce has not."

This is about more than just one student or group of students who might be priced out of a degree if tuition is raised.

This is about our local and state economies.

How long do you think these employers will wait around for us to give them what they need? If we can't provide the skilled labor, those businesses will take their jobs and try to fill them somewhere else.

Education has never seemed to be Corbett's first priority, but jobs are definitely near the top of his list.

In this case, he can help provide both by properly funding community colleges.