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Chancellor’s Report July 2011

Pima Community College Seal

Special Edition:  Facts about Pima Community College's Proposed Admission Standards

Lack of educational achievement is a huge impediment to America’s future economic development. The jobs of the 21st century will increasingly demand postsecondary education. Our nation will not be able to succeed in a fiercely competitive global marketplace unless it can improve the quality of its workforce. It is no secret that in Southern Arizona as well as throughout the United States, businesses are hard-pressed to find employees with the skills and education needed to succeed in the workplace.

Pima Community College has worked hard to help underprepared students enter or advance in the workplace. The reality is that more than 80 percent of first-time students coming to PCC require help to become proficient at a college level in Mathematics, Reading and Writing. Through its developmental education classes, which the public knows as remedial education, the College has been successful in preparing the majority of students who are not ready for college.

Many students come to PCC far from ready for college. Some have the equivalent of a fifth-grade education, or lower. Some are unable to write a sentence, because they do not know what nouns and verbs are. Some cannot add two multi-digit numbers, such as 1394 + 338. Our placement test data show that these unprepared students have only about a 1-in-20 chance of completing a college-level course, let alone graduating with a degree or certificate. To continue to accept those students, and take their tuition money, knowing that the vast majority will not succeed, is ineffective and wastes taxpayer money. It will leave these students discouraged and in many cases, in debt.

Thus, the College is proposing to require that incoming students have a high school diploma, GED, or equivalent, and minimum scores on PCC placement tests in Mathematics, Reading and Writing at the seventh-grade level. The tentative date for implementation is Summer 2012.

It is important to emphasize to the community key aspects of our proposal:

1.  PCC is not eliminating developmental education.

As stated above, more than 80 percent of students coming to PCC require some developmental education. We still will have several levels of developmental Mathematics, Reading and Writing classes. Faculty and staff are strengthening those classes. In the next two years, we will adopt best practices from community colleges around the nation to best teach those students who need moderate help to get ready for college-level work. Improving developmental education is a key initiative in our 2011-2013 College Plan. We are deeply committed to the success of developmental education.

2. PCC is not turning away students who do not meet the proposed admission standards. Rather, we are opening new pathways to education.

PCC will continue to help the small minority of students who have a diploma yet do not meet placement-test standards. PCC’s Center for Training and Development helps approximately 500 people a year prepare for meaningful employment, and can help those with or without a high school credential. Also, PCC last year received a record $26 million in grants. A substantial portion of that funding is for programs which prepare undereducated students, dislocated workers and the needy for jobs and careers.

Moreover, we are developing a new avenue to success, the Pathways to Pima program, which will provide students with advising, tutoring and specialized preparation so that they can become ready to retake the placement tests, meet the new standards and be admitted. This program will be especially helpful to those who have been out of education for some time and wish to return.

For students without a diploma, several PCC alternatives are available. English as a Second Language classes can help students for whom knowledge of English is a barrier to furthering their education. (ESL classes also are available for students with diplomas.) Adult Education helps thousands of undereducated adults work toward a GED. It should be noted that PCC has been instrumental in keeping Adult Education alive in Arizona through FY 2012 after the Arizona Legislature eliminated funding for the program two years ago. PCC remains committed to supporting Adult Education. It also should be noted that a long-term funding solution is needed to sustain Adult Education, which helps working-class adults and their families achieve their dreams.

3. Lack of educational achievement is a huge problem for society.

Altering our policy has an impact on numerous stakeholders: students, parents, educators, employers and leaders of community organizations. Pima Community College will champion programs to increase literacy, education and success. But we cannot do it alone.

Thus the College is reaching out to literacy organizations to help students who need to improve their reading skills. Faith-based leaders have come to us asking how they can help. We also will strengthen our collaborations with the region’s K-12 education systems. By way of example, PCC’s West Campus and Tucson High Magnet School are jointly designing new programs to prepare high school seniors to succeed on math assessment tests. As a college and as a community, we have to try new things. To reiterate: Only 1 in 20 students testing into the lowest level of developmental education ever completes a college-level course. That simply is unacceptable.

We cannot give up on these students by continuing the same failed policies for the next 40 years. We must find other approaches, such as working with students in a more flexible non-credit setting, rather than continuing to employ the methods that failed them in the first 12 years of their education.

The good news is that the issue is on the table and worthy of serious public discussion. This is an opportunity for all of Pima County to have respectful, civil discourse, free of rancor and finger pointing. If nothing else, that is one lesson we can freely impart to current and future students.

The College recently held a community forum during which current and former educators provided valuable input regarding this proposal, which remains a work in progress. The next forum will be Tuesday, Aug. 23, at 5:30 p.m. at PCC’s East Campus, 8181 E. Irvington Road. I invite the public to attend so that we may further examine this crucial societal issue. Please contact me if you have any questions.

Additional resources that provide background on this subject are found on the College website.

Roy Flores

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Pima Community College, 4905 East Broadway Blvd., Tucson, AZ 85709