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Chancellor's Report September 2011

Pima Community College Seal

Chancellor's Message

(Below are condensed remarks delivered by Dr. Roy Flores at All College Day, Aug. 19 at Pima’s West Campus.)

Dr. Roy Flores speaking at All College DayGood morning, everyone. It’s so nice for us to start a new year and do what we do best: educate our friends and neighbors when they come to us as students, and serve our community through learning.

I want to summarize the accomplishments of the last year. I invite you to go to our website and look at the results of our recently concluded College Plan. You’ll find that our accomplishments have been very impressive indeed.

Let’s begin with the most important one: We received reaccreditation from the Higher Learning Commission. That is a big achievement. Without accreditation, the College would cease to exist; our students couldn’t receive Financial Aid and, without accreditation, we would not be able to offer any courses. The lion’s share of the credit goes to the Provost and faculty leaders. Getting ready for the site visit by the evaluation team was a three-year endeavor. It went as predicted because we are an excellent college.

Evaluators noted some areas that needed improvement, as is the case whenever an institution’s operations are analyzed. But the reality was that the people who were evaluating us were taking copious and furious notes so they could introduce our initiatives at their colleges and universities.

The HLC team found a culture of data-driven decision-making, and a clear and unified understanding of our mission. Our mission is simple, to develop our community through learning -- credit learning, noncredit learning, transfer, and many other things. They also found a bold and comprehensive redesign of our Student Services Centers. When I first got here, my phone would ring incessantly with students trying to figure out what they should do, who to call, how to get correct answers. But thanks to all of you, and particularly the Student Services staff, and faculty and administrators who work with students, we made the redesign a success.

The HLC team found a broad array of career and technical programs. We are one of the most comprehensive community colleges in the nation. The evaluators found a college that promotes a culture of lifelong learning through internships, service learning and Adult Education. They also found a college that focuses on Workforce Education in many different ways, and a Grants program that serves students and the College well in seeking alternative sources of funds.

In 2010 we received $26 million in grants. That is a significant accomplishment. Approximately $18.5 million of that $26 million is for a Health Professions Opportunity Grant with a partnership with Pima County OneStop. The program assists low-income individuals, veterans and others to obtain skills leading to employment in the fast-growing healthcare sector.

Pima Community College also is at the forefront in the nation of improving services to veterans. More than 1,400 veterans attend the college each year. That’s more than any college in the state of Arizona. That deserves a round of applause. In fact, there are more veterans attending Pima Community College than the University of Arizona, Arizona State University or Northern Arizona University. I am proud to say that a new Veterans Center will open at Downtown Campus in November. I would encourage all veterans to attend the grand opening.

We have other accomplishments, some of which one might consider routine, but they’re very important to us. Northwest Campus will have a new building for classrooms, and we are renovating West Campus’ Fitness and Sports Science area so that our students, employees and the community can enjoy a modern facility.

I am also proud to point out our continuing and deep relationship with the University of Arizona. We have new agreements that provide for a seamless transition from Pima to 15 bachelor’s degree programs at the UA. We also have a joint admissions agreement with Northern Arizona University. And here’s something that we have not really thumped our chest about, but that we really need to recognize as a major accomplishment: Pima Community College ranked first in the nation in the number of two-year certificates awarded last year. Think about that. That’s an enormous achievement given our population base.

As for the fiscal outlook, specifically government funding, the focus is on cuts. But it is more than that. National and international economies are changing. These are scary times; there are ominous, threatening clouds, sometimes from Europe, sometimes from Asia, sometimes within the United States. We may be on the precipice of something really dangerous. The stock market reacts accordingly, with wild swings and a downward trend. The forecast is for anemic growth. At this point, that would be welcome because it would be growth, albeit at a very modest pace.

Our state, Arizona, is as vulnerable as any other, and perhaps more than many. And Pima County and Tucson are particularly vulnerable, too, because fewer tourists are coming here. Also, we have one of the worst real estate markets in the nation, and we have to be mindful that real estate is one of the drivers of College revenue. And in the last few years, Pima has taken a 25 percent cut from the state, followed by a 33 percent cut and a 55 percent cut.

So, if the national economy is in a fix, if government is in a stalemate, if the deal that’s been cut between the executive and legislative branches means that fiscal policy is impotent and monetary policy is going to limp along, what does that mean for us? And if the state is not going to help us, what does that mean? It means that we have to reorder the way we look at the College. We are going to have to continue to make smart decisions. We are going to have to continue to provide services that people need. It’s for that reason that we are introducing differential tuition – to ensure that our occupational programs continue to exist so that when people get laid off they can come to Pima to restart their careers.

This is the going to be the way we live for a while. It might sound like heresy and might not be well-received in some quarters, but there’s no pot at the end of the rainbow. I am confident, however, that together we can make smart choices. And the smart thing to do is to understand that this is our new reality, not a temporary emergency. It is for that reason that we have avoided furloughs, because furloughs are predicated on the idea that the crisis is temporary. That is not the case for the College. And, at all costs, we have to avoid layoffs. We have to be mindful that we have already reduced 7 percent of staff positions and about 24 percent of administrative positions, even as our enrollment has gone up 19 or 20 percent in recent years. People are stressed and stretched. It is for that reason that we have to look for ways to provide pay raises once again, even in these difficult times, beginning with this year.

I am grateful that the Board of Governors has agreed to hold employees harmless with respect to increases in state retirement contributions. And I am grateful that the Board has also agreed to make medical insurance more accessible to College employees by having the College absorb the additional costs of medical premiums.

We need to reinstate faculty sabbaticals and continue to emphasize professional development. The mind has to be refreshed. We cannot continue to operate on an emergency basis, because our challenges are not going to be over in 10 months. I am hopeful it will be over in five years. So we have to make those adjustments.

Given our circumstances, we can make the necessary adjustments, unless the economy really goes bad. The last thing we need is to start moving and pulling in different directions. By working smartly and doing what needs to be done, we will be able to do right by the people of Pima County.

We have just concluded the 2008-2011 College Plan, the three-year plan that coincided with our reaccreditation efforts. Of the 200 action items in the plan, we accomplished 194. I couldn’t explain away the six we didn’t accomplish, so I’m on the hook for those. We will get them done. We also will standardize Student Learning Outcomes. A lot of smart people are working carefully on that, and we will do it in a way that brings credit to the College.

For the 2011-2013 College Plan, we’ve had extensive participation by employees, and input from the community and national experts. The Board approved the plan in June, and we are eager to implement it.

At the national level, Pima Community College is one of the prime movers of the Voluntary Framework of Accountability. We were one of the first eight pilot colleges in the nation to participate in the VFA, which is the first national system of accountability specifically for community colleges, created by community colleges. And, community college leaders, as well as staff, faculty and others, are looking for the most appropriate measures for gauging how well our institutions are doing, and how we compare to others. I am eager to make sure that the VFA gets done because I know Pima will be very competitive and compare very favorably.

In Arizona, the state has introduced the Grand Canyon Diploma, which allows high school students to graduate if they can pass a test – a concept that nationally is known as Move On When Ready. High school juniors can take a test, and if they pass, they will receive the diploma. Most states do not limit where the students can go to college. In Arizona, it is limited to community colleges. The thinking is that students who receive the Grand Canyon Diploma and choose not to attend a community college will spend their senior year buffing up their credentials to get into the University of Arizona or Arizona State University. The thinking is that UA and ASU get the highest-caliber students and we will get the next caliber of student. I have news for those who think that way: The ones who are going to receive the Grand Canyon Diploma their junior year will be the best students. Pima will get a cadre of very bright men and women who will be recruited by UA later.

I would like to note Pima’s Speakers’ Series, a wonderful little treasure that everyone in the county should know about. These sessions are sponsored by the Provost and the Faculty Senate. They have had interesting lectures – Barry Infuso, from the Culinary Arts faculty, has lectured about food. Tony Pitucco, a good friend, talked about the emerging scientific revolution, the creation of the universe and other things that I dimly understand. Rick Rosen talked about whether your home is a good investment. And the next one was – now I remember -- Gail Gonzales’ “Memory – How It Works And Why It Often Doesn’t.” That was a lot of fun – scary, but a lot of fun.

Finally, I want to talk about developmental education and the College’s new admissions requirements. If you look at the 2011-2013 College Plan, it is not a stretch of the imagination to understand that we’re committed to strengthening developmental education. We are examining approaches at community colleges that have had success. We have sent people around the nation. We have examined closely what the Gates Foundation has done, and what the Lumina Foundation has sponsored. Many promising things are going on around the country. We want to make sure that everybody has the best opportunity possible for graduation to achieve whatever it is they want to achieve.

We have also engaged the faculty to help us look at this in a very serious and comprehensive way. In addition to the Planning Committee, we had discussions with the Faculty Senate to look at data that were particularly troubling. We found that, while we have success in many quarters regarding developmental education, there’s a piece of it where we’re not very successful. We have not been successful helping those who are testing into the lowest level of remedial math, writing and reading. They have a 1-in-20 chance of actually passing a college course in that particular sequence. One chance in 20 is not good enough. And for those who are over age 50, who come to us new to higher education, not one in the last four years has actually completed the developmental education sequence. Not one.

We want to develop alternatives for these students so they can come to the College and make best use of the College’s resources. We have wonderful noncredit programs at the College. The Center for Training and Development (CTD) – it is outstanding. It’s not a credit setting. It’s a noncredit setting, but it works exceedingly well. We also have Adult Education, where people can come to us and get a GED. That works well. The College is so committed to it that we put $400,000 of our own money to ensure that the state continues to have Adult Education.

Right now, the practice at the college is that anyone – without a high school diploma, without a GED, without one day of school – can enroll at Pima Community College. The expectation is that we will take you and help you achieve what you want to achieve. That’s not what we’re doing. Some are coming to us at third-, fourth- and fifth-grade level and we have not, in our traditional setting, been able to help them. In these other settings I am confident that we will. It is necessary to note that these changes in admission standards will bring us into compliance with state law. The state requires that anyone who does not have either a GED, or a high school equivalency or diploma must provide evidence of potential success in community college.

Some are arguing that we are closing the door on people. We are not. Pima is providing more alternatives, more opportunities for folks to understand and learn, to retake their assessment tests, and then have a better chance of success at the College.

This is a good example of faculty working very closely with counselors, administrators and the Board, and working toward what would seemingly be a simple decision. But, as with anything else, there will be people opposing the change. Unfortunately, some of those folks are educators. That, unfortunately, is predictable as well. But Pima Community College’s educators – the ones dealing with students every day – are the ones who came up with this. That is the change I am going to support.

Thank you.

Roy Flores

Send comments or suggestions to: chancellor@pima.edu

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