AlliedNews.com - Grove City, Pennsylvania

Local News

December 30, 2013

GC center covers adult learning gaps

GROVE CITY — Grove City Education Center for Adults - formerly known as the Literacy Council of Grove City - has opened an office in Greenville in response to the Literacy Council of Mercer County's announcement that it will close at the end of 2013 after more than 25 years of service.

GCECA is located at 111 W. Pine St. and provides free, one-on-one and small group preparation for general educational development (GED) diploma testing - as well as tutoring for reading, writing, math, English and English as a Second Language.

It was founded by concerned local residents in 1990.

Its presence in Greenville opened after the Pennsylvania Department of Education pulled a three-year adult basic education grant awarded in 2011 to the LCMC - with its final fiscal payment year remaining, said Tom Reiber, director of GCECA.

The department's reasons have not been made public by the LCMC, but the Greenville agency had been getting funding from the PDE "forever," he added.

The final year of funding was transferred July 1 to the Midwestern Intermediate Unit IV, headquartered in Grove City, to provide GED classes until June 2014. The IU had applied for the PDE grant money in 2011 but was denied, Reiber said.

He noted that the LCMC was concerned that there was no longer an agency to offer basic education to adults in the Greenville area. The IU's programs are for GED-prep only - and based in Mercer, Farrell and Sharon.

The LCMC asked GCECA if it would open a Greenville office, and the LCMC would transfer some assets it has that doesn't belong to the PDE, Reiber said. The final number will be determined after the LCMC makes some expenditures; however, "It could be around $10,000," he said - and partly used for Reiber's increase in hours to work in Greenville. He is considered part-time.

GCECA agreed to run the new office "until the money runs out," he noted. 

The LCMC has secured an office space for GCECA in the basement of First Baptist Church, 60 Shenango St. in Greenville, which was formerly used as a nursery school, Reiber said. The LCMC paid the church a lump sum that is expected to last until next summer, he added.

"The church has been very accommodating to us."

Reiber expects to have the office up and running by January; however, he already has one client needing help from Mercer, he said. The director will also be working to build up volunteer tutors and students through simple advertising in the Greenville community.

GCECA has had its own financial troubles.

It formerly received the PDE grant money as well, but the agency stopped applying for it in 2011 when awards were given "on a competitive basis," Reiber said. Like the LCMC, "This grant was the majority of our budget," he noted. 

However, GCECA didn't believe it could compete for the PDE grant any longer and contracted with Butler County Community College (BC3), which has received the PDE grant for its own adult literacy program in Butler County, Reiber said.

BC3 wanted its literacy program to have a presence in Grove City - and felt it was more prudent to partner with the established GCECA than opening its own office, he noted.

"If we had not contracted with BC3, our budget would be reduced by 90 percent," Reiber stated. Financial support has also come to GCECA through the Grove City Area United Way and private contributions; however, the contract with BC3 has "allowed us to continue operating," he said.

GCECA's funding still falls short, though. "Right now we have an income of $42,000 a year and expenses at about a $50,000 level. The board is trying to find ways to plug that deficit number," Reiber said.

To slim down further, GCECA went from four part-time staff to two - as well as reducing books and supplies, which is sometimes recovered by using BC3's supply, he added. GCECA is also relying more on its seven volunteers to provide instruction.

The GCECA board is sending out its annual contribution letter to ask donors to dig a little deeper. "We can limp along for a couple of years, but we can't sustain that," Reiber said. It also hopes to draw more volunteer tutors, who need no prior teaching experience and will be trained if accepted into the program.

The agency averages 50 students annually. "They're not all GED candidates," Reiber said. Of those who go for their GED, the success rate is 50 percent - and would be nearly 100 percent if the remaining 50 took the test, he said.

A computer-based GED test is expected to be offered at Slippery Rock University beginning Jan. 2, rather than the pencil and paper one offered in Butler, he noted.

A GED group class meets at GCECA from 9 a.m. to noon Tuesdays and Thursdays, and offers one-on-one help as well.

"Most of the work with one-on-one is for math," Reiber noted, for some type of employment exam. Individuals wanting to hone their English meet on Saturday mornings, he said.

Reiber has been working part time with GCECA for almost four years. The agency's contract with BC3 also requires that he be the tutor coordinator for the college's literacy program. In addition to Grove City, BC3 has 35 volunteers who tutor at its various basic adult education locations in the Butler and Cranberry Township areas.

Lawrence County has literacy and GED-prep programs in New Castle as well. Non-residents from different counties often cross borders for services from the various agencies, Reiber said.

However, GCECA will now be - with the LCMC's closing - the only agency in Mercer County offering a variety of basic adult education services, he noted.

Branching out to Greenville "is heading things in a different direction," Reiber stated. "It's a tremendous opportunity for this agency with experience to provide services. If it was not for us filling the gap, students would have to travel a distance for a GED prep class (with the IU).

"I'm glad we are able to do this for the residents in the Greenville area. The big issue is how long we can sustain it. That has yet to be seen."

For more information about programs at Grove City Education Center for Adults, visit www.gcedcenter.org or call 724-458-7270 to schedule an appointment. Director Tom Reiber is in the office from 9 a.m. to noon Mondays and Wednesdays to answer questions.

Published Dec. 11, 2013, in Allied News. Pick up a copy at 201 A Erie St., Grove City.

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