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Senator Wayne D. Fontana

PA Forward

Most college students look forward to summer break and a reprieve from the classroom, but few have the resources needed to take the “summer off” from one of their most difficult challenges: paying for their postsecondary education. 

A postsecondary education can be expensive, but it is undeniably an investment worth making.  Whether a student attends the University of Pittsburgh, the Community College of Allegheny County, learns a trade, or receives a 4-year degree from the University of Pittsburgh, education is the key to a better future.

Fortunately, the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), in cooperation with the PA Department of Community & Economic Development (DCED) and State Treasurer Joe Torsella, have launched the PA Forward Student Loan Program.

PA Forward Student Loan ProgramPA Forward is a new suite of affordable private student loan programs specifically created to help Pennsylvania families cover the full cost of higher education, without getting buried in unnecessary debt.

Students and families in Allegheny County could benefit from this home-grown program more than ever. According to a 2012 Lumina Foundation study, Americans with associate degrees earn 51% more annually than high school graduates with no college degree, and bachelor’s degree holders earn 134% more annually. Those who attain degrees are more likely to be employed, have health insurance, vote in elections, and even live longer, and are less likely to be incarcerated.

Currently, 46.4% of Pennsylvanians have obtained their postsecondary education, including high-quality certificate programs and degrees.  However, it is estimated that 60% of Pennsylvanians will need to obtain a postsecondary education by 2025, in order to meet the future workforce needs of the Commonwealth.

Additionally, low-income, first-generation students must often overcome difficult barriers when attaining their degree of choice. These barriers can be even higher for people of color. The annual Indicators of Higher Education Equity in the United States report was recently published, which examines circumstances that can result in challenging situations for those seeking to improve themselves via higher education. The report demonstrates how the cost burden of a degree is shifting to students and families, since there is less state and federal funding for institutions of higher education, as compared to prior decades.

At the same time, Federal Pell Grants cover less of the cost of attending college than ever before. In 2017, the Pell Grant covered about 25% of college costs, down from 67% in 1976. As a result, more students and their families are borrowing to pay for college than ever before. The report also found that African American bachelor’s degree recipients have both the highest borrowing rates (85%) and the highest average amount borrowed ($34,000). Clearly, the rising cost of college means that private student loans are increasingly necessary for many after eligibility for grants, scholarships, campus-based aid, and low-cost federal student loans are exhausted.

Under PA Forward, PHEAA makes borrower-friendly private student loans to Pennsylvania students and parents at competitively low rates and with superior repayment benefits.  Students can borrow up to the total cost of attendance with no application or origination fees, flexible repayment options, interest rate reductions for successful graduation, additional rate reductions for enrolling in automatic debt, and no late fees during repayment.  Students pursuing a degree, diploma or certificate for completing certain training programs for tradesmen and women can qualify for a loan as well.

The PA Forward Student Loan Program will make borrowing more affordable in Pennsylvania.  However, students must also understand that the key to borrowing wisely is to do so only when it’s necessary. Again, low-cost, federal student loans should be the first option after all eligibility for gift aid is exhausted. 

After careful consideration of the costs and options for financing college, and the many long-term positive returns on a college degree, student loans are increasingly the only way forward for many students. When this is the case, we are working to make sure students have the tools and resources needed to make smart choices, including PHEAA’s new PA Forward Student Loan Program.  To learn more about the program, visit www.pheaa.org.

Did You Know…

Did you know there are 44.7 million Americans with student loan debt?

New Senior Citizen ConnectCards

Senior Citizen ConnectCardsThe Port Authority of Allegheny County is in the process of issuing new Senior Citizen Connect Cards and my office can assist. The new cards will replace the current blue or yellow PA Senior Transit ID cards and will have a photo of the cardholder on the card. These new cards will enable the user to ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free across the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Both my Brookline and Kennedy Township offices are equipped to help seniors get their new cards. Simply visit either office and bring with you ONE valid document that shows proof-of-age.  This includes a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID card, birth certificate, PACE ID card, or passport to name a few. My staff will enter your information into Port Authority’s system and upload your photo and a copy of your proof-of-age document. 

Upon receiving the information from my office, the Port Authority will produce a new Senior Citizen ConnectCard and then mail the card to my office where you can return to pick up the card. New cards should take a couple weeks to arrive at my office from the time Port Authority receives the information. When you return to get your new card, please bring with you your current senior bus pass so we can exchange it for your new ConnectCard.

Anyone age 65 or over is eligible to receive this new card and ride Port Authority and other public transit vehicles for free.

Learn About Medical Marijuana, Get a Flu Shot at Annual Senior Fair

Annual Senior FairOn Thursday, Sept. 5, I will be hosting a FREE Senior Fair at the Dormont Recreation Center, located at 1801 Dormont Avenue.  The Senior Fair will run from 9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.  Light refreshments will be served.

New this year, attendees will have the chance to learn about Pennsylvania’s medical marijuana program!

Do you suffer from chronic pain, cancer, anxiety disorders, or one of the other 23 qualifying medical conditions? Do you have questions about medical marijuana or need help obtaining your Pennsylvania medical marijuana card? Join Dr. John Metcalf and pharmacists from Maitri Medicinals at my Senior Fair for on-site medical marijuana card certifications and education. Contact 1-833-667-4665 or shelly@mms4relief.com to ensure you come prepared to the event with the necessary medical information.

American Healthcare Group will once again be on hand to provide flu shots for attendees.  There is no charge for the flu shots to anyone with a Medicare Part B card.  Please bring your card with you.

At the Sept. 5 Senior Fair, attendees can also:

  • Drop off unwanted medications as part of Sheriff Mullen’s Project D.U.M.P.
  • Have your photo taken to receive a new, updated Senior ConnectCard that will allow you to ride Port Authority buses and light rail for free
  • Visit with a pharmacist from Duquesne University’s School of Pharmacy to ask about medications
  • Get blood pressure checked
  • Receive important information from participating organizations on services and resources available to seniors

Anyone with questions can contact my district office at 412-344-2551.  If you need a flu shot, want to learn more about medical marijuana, have unwanted medications you need to dispose of, or want to receive important information from some of our region’s finest organizations and senior advocates, I hope you’ll consider attending this free event.

School Counselor Financial Aid Workshops

School Counselor Financial Aid WorkshopsThe Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and the Pennsylvania Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (PASFAA) are once again hosting Financial Aid Workshops for school counselors.  The workshops are free of charge and will provide the latest information on financial aid for postsecondary education.  Attendees will be provided with a workshop handbook, handouts and materials.

Due to the increasing cost of higher education, it is more important than ever for counselors to understand the financial aid application process and the availability of financial aid for students. Federal grants and loans, the Pennsylvania State Grant and special programs, campus-based aid, financial literacy and emerging trends in student aid and the workforce will all be addressed during this vital training session.  

Workshops are being offered at 40 locations throughout the state during the months of September and October.  To view a list of dates and sites, and to register for the workshop of your choice please click here.

On-site check-in the day of the workshop will be conducted from 8:30 – 9 a.m., with complimentary refreshments being served.  Workshops will begin at 9 a.m. and conclude by 12:15 p.m.

Anyone wishing to attend should register at least one week prior to the date of the workshop you wish to attend.  Upon registration, you will receive an email confirmation with workshop location, directions and parking information. If you need to cancel or change your registration, please email PASSWorkshops@pheaa.org with your changes.

PHEAA will no longer award Act 48 credits for their Counselor Workshops.   They will be providing all attendees with a letter confirming workshop attendance.  School staff may use the letter to submit for the three hours if they choose to do so.

City of Pittsburgh Citizen & Student Police Academies

Pittsburgh Police
The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police sponsors an opportunity for you to become closely acquainted with the roles and responsibilities of the Police Bureau. The Pittsburgh Citizen’s Police Academy (CPA) brings the police and the community close together in a setting that offers a sample of police training to each participant.

  • Participants receive three hours of training one evening a week for 15 weeks.
  • Participants are taught the basics of criminal law, search and seizure, patrol tactics, firearms, police accountability and many other subjects.
  • Participants learn about the processing of crimes, how police canines are used and are exposed to a variety of the specialty police units.

The program allows participants to experience some of the highlights of the police training and are exposed to the operations of the police bureau.  All this takes place in a safe and entertaining training environment. Class size is limited to 30 participants. All interested persons must complete an application and give permission for the Pittsburgh Bureau of Police to conduct a background check to determine if they have a criminal record. Applications can be downloaded by clicking here or visiting https://pittsburghpa.gov/police/community-policing and are due by August 29. The next session will begin on Sept. 5. Completed applications can be sent to:

Pittsburgh Bureau of Police
Citizens Police Academy
ATTN: Sgt. Eric Kroll
900 N. Lincoln Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15233
Eric.kroll@pittsburghpa.gov

The Pittsburgh Bureau of Police is also offering an opportunity for students, free of charge, to become closely acquainted with the roles and responsibilities of the Police Bureau. The Pittsburgh Student Police Academy (SPA) will bring members of the Pittsburgh Police and high school youth together in a setting that offers a sample of police training and operations to each student.

The Fall 2019 session of the SPA will begin on Wednesday, October 9, 2019. Classes will be held at Point Park University, 201 Wood Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Registration closes Oct. 4, 2019. The Academy will be held each Wednesday evening beginning Oct. 10, from 6 – 9 p.m. for 10 weeks.

Class size is limited to 25 participants. Interested students must complete the application/permission slip which can be downloaded by clicking here or visiting https://pittsburghpa.gov/police/community-policing/.  Completed applications can be sent to:

John Tokarski
City of Pittsburgh, Dept. of Public Safety
City-County Building, Suite 451
414 Grant Street
Pittsburgh, PA 15219

Children EatingSummer Food Program

Children ages 18 and younger can participate in the Summer Food Service Program which began in mid-June.  This is a federal program providing free meals and fun activities to kids 18 and under during the summer months when school is out of session. Children can receive breakfast and lunch during summer recess at many locations in Allegheny County. 

To learn more please call 412-460-FOOD or click here to search for locations near you.

Andrew CarnegieFontana Fact

Carnegie Borough, which is celebrated their 125th anniversary earlier this month was founded in 1894 and was named after Andrew Carnegie. Today, the borough has a population of around 8,000 people and a land area of about 1.6 square miles. Former Pennsylvania Governor James Duff was born in and lived in Carnegie.

Offices of State Senator Wayne D. Fontana

Brookline District
1039 Brookline Boulevard
Suite 2
Pittsburgh, PA 15226
Phone: 412-344-2551
Weekdays – 9 am – 5 pm
Harrisburg
543 Main Capitol | Box 203042
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Phone: 717-787-5300
Fax: 717-772-5484
Weekdays – 8:30 am – 5 pm
Kennedy Township
Kenmawr Plaza
524 Pine Hollow Road
Kennedy Twp, PA 15136
Phone: 412-331-1208
Weekdays – 10 am – 4 pm
Beechview Satellite
1660 Broadway Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA 15216
10 a.m. – 3 p.m. – First Tuesday of each month or by appointment