Tech reviews

Editorial: What do Triangle Tech and Pittsburgh Technical College problems portend for trade education?

Career and technical education is important.

It has become part of a growing conversation, as the reality and sustainability of university education are debated because of its cost. The requirement of a college degree for certain jobs also is being questioned. In 2023, Gov. Josh Shapiro removed that hurdle for thousands of government jobs, including state police troopers.

The idea of reinvestment in trades has increased. U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson, R-Centre County, has been one of most constant champions in Congress of career and technical education — and in a notoriously partisan House of Representatives, he has been bipartisan in his push.

So you might think that Pennsylvania is in good shape when it comes to the more blue-collar sectors of post-secondary education. Two things happened recently to call that into question.

On Thursday, Pittsburgh-based Triangle Tech announced it’s closing after 80 years. All six for-profit campuses — Pittsburgh, Greensburg, DuBois, Sunbury, Bethlehem and Chambersburg — will cease teaching new students things like carpentry, welding, HVAC and more. Current students will continue through June 2025.

The decision makes sense when you look at the numbers. Triangle Tech has 260 students and 110 employees. After closing to new students, the number of employees will fall to 20.

That news was followed Friday by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education’s release of a decision that Pittsburgh Technical College is “in danger of imminent closure.” It was placed on probation by the commission in March.

Middle States Commission is an institutional accrediting organization that evaluates more than 500 schools. It evaluates small, private schools like Seton Hill University and major universities like Pitt and Penn State, as well as community colleges and trade schools.

Are all post-secondary schools accredited? No, but they should be. Without accreditation, you can’t secure financial aid. Employers may not recognize the degree received. You pay the tuition but may not receive the benefits expected.

Pittsburgh Technical College has time to correct. It’s been given a June 17 deadline to submit a plan and until June 28 to demonstrate exactly why it should maintain its accreditation. On its website, the school is adamant it is not closing.

Pittsburgh Technical College seems to be in better shape than Triangle Tech. It has 1,066 students, giving it almost five times the enrollment.

But it is yet another in a line of trade and career schools in trouble. Pittsburgh has seen several, including the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, which closed in 2019. At that time, it was likewise facing loss of its accreditation from Middle States Commission.

High school students and their families often are cautioned to carefully consider the colleges to which they apply. In addition to cost and reputation in the field of study, there is the idea of whether a four-year degree is needed or whether an associate degree or a diploma program might achieve the same end.

Questionable futures for trade and technical education providers like Triangle Tech and Pittsburgh Technical College add an element of risk to the mix.


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