(WHTM) — On Wednesday, students from community colleges across Pa. came to the state capitol, asking lawmakers to invest more in their schools.

They say Pennsylvania’s 15 community colleges are responsible for educating more than 200-thousand students a year– helping fill critical gaps in the ongoing shortages of workers in key industries especially nursing and public safety.

“In the community aspect, it just makes people develop their skills, show them their passion, gives them opportunities that they never would have anywhere else. I just can’t express how grateful I was for everything I had in my community college. It was a one-of-a-kind experience that I did not expect but so glad I got to experience,” said Emma Hope, a student from Lehigh Carbon Community College.

The group also points out that community colleges are the most affordable way for Pennsylvanians to get a post-secondary education, and that nearly half of their students are from minority communities.