Report to the Community

This month’s edition of PCC Spotlight, the College’s e-newsletter, contains my annual Report to the Community.
Some of the topics addressed in the Report:
  • Accreditation: We have submitted a Notice Report to the Higher Learning Commission, a key step in regaining the fullest measure of confidence from our accreditor.
  • Fiscal stewardship: I put into perspective PCC’s budget, property tax rates, and tuition for 2016-17.
  • Student success: We are making strides in improving and expanding pathways for students at the beginning of their education journey.

Aviation Technology Center update

Below is a message I sent to the College community July 1:

I have good news to share about our Aviation Technology Center (ATC).  The College was notified today that the Higher Learning Commission has approved the ATC as an instructional site.

If you’ll remember, when a college offers more than 50 percent of program instruction at a location geographically separate from a main campus (in ATC’s case, Desert Vista), the HLC must approve the site.

Today, I received a letter from HLC President Barbara Gellman-Danley notifying the College that the Institutional Actions Council of the HLC on June 27 approved our request “to open three additional locations”: the ATC, 7211 S. Park Ave.; Maintenance and Security, 6680 S. Country Club Road; and the Tucson Public Safety Academy, at 10001 S. Wilmot Road.

The letter added that the HLC, per policy, will conduct a required Additional Location Confirmation Visit to the ATC within six months.

Additionally, the HLC approved PCC’s request to open additional locations at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Tucson, 10000 S. Wilmot Road, and the Federal Bureau of Prisons’ Federal Correctional Complex at 8901 S. Wilmot Road.

It should be noted that the College, while seeking HLC approval of the ATC, self-disclosed its status to the U.S. Department of Education. The DOE is conducting a focused program review of the ATC. DOE’s review potentially affects the College’s ability to disburse financial aid at the ATC because institutions must first receive approval from their regional accrediting body, i.e. the HLC, prior to disbursing federal financial aid. We are working with the DOE to seek approval to disburse financial aid to ATC students for the Fall 2016 semester.

Today’s good news represents crucial progress for the College in the areas of compliance and accountability. We continue to improve our alignment with accreditor and regulator standards and expectations. The beneficiaries are our students, who can attain their goals through a Pima Community College education.

Thank you for your dedication to doing things right, and enjoy the holiday.


College submits Notice Report to accreditor

Below is a message I sent earlier today to the College community:


The College yesterday afternoon sent our Notice Report to the Higher Learning Commission. The report can be read on the Accreditation page of our website.

In meeting the deadline for submission of the report, the College has reached another milestone as we seek to regain the full trust of our accreditor. It’s important to remember that successfully emerging from the Notice sanction is not an endpoint. It is a significant step toward our ultimate goal, providing the best possible programs and services to students and the community.

The Notice process has been marked by many changes at the College, including a re-evaluation of our Mission Fulfillment Framework, the foundation document for our efforts. Change is difficult, especially in a large, student-centered organization such as PCC, but it’s necessary, and I am proud so many employees have embraced new ways of doing things.

A project of this scope could not succeed without the teamwork of faculty, staff and administrators. Dozens of employees should be proud of their efforts, and I thank those who commented on earlier drafts of the report, or provided evidence.

As it has in past HLC-related matters, the Provost’s Office took the lead on the Notice Report and piloted the College through a long, complex process. The Subject Matter Experts team spent hours researching, writing, revising and editing the Notice Report, and deserve recognition: Dolores Durán-Cerda, Julian Easter, Carl Englander, Karrie Mitchell, Bruce Moses, Lee Nichols, Michael Parker, Nic Richmond, Carin Rubinstein, Kate Schmidt, Jeff Silvyn and Jeff Thies.

I am confident the Notice Report provides strong evidence that the College has substantially addressed the concerns raised in the HLC Notice Letter, and demonstrates we meet HLC standards. The progress made by the College over the past three years is strengthening our efforts to revitalize our community academically, economically and culturally.

Thank you for your support.

Lee D. Lambert,


Progress in online education

PCC recognizes that not all instruction need occur in a brick-and-mortar building. In Spring 2014, for example, 21.4 percent of our student took at least one online class. We recognize that some students wish to take entire degree or certificate programs online. That’s why our involvement in the Open Educational Resources (OER) Degree Initiative Grant is so exciting.

Earlier this month, PCC received the news that it is the only community college in Arizona, and one of only 38 in the nation, to receive the OER grant. Over three years, the grant will allow the College to develop online degree programs using high-quality, free educational resources.  We intend to offer an Associate of Arts in Liberal Arts degree, and we expect 3,500 PCC students will take part on OER courses.

The initiative helps remove a major financial roadblock – high-cost textbooks — that hampers the attainment of credentials for many of our students.

Embracing diversity amid tragedy

Here is a message I sent to the College community on June 13:


At last week’s Governing Board meeting, the College shared with the Board a preliminary draft of our 2015-2020 Diversity Plan.

“Pima Community College’s diversity plan supports cultural awareness, and sensitivity in understanding differences in race, ethnicity, color, national origin, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, age, veteran status, languages, socio-economic conditions and political systems,” the plan states. “The concepts of equality and inclusion go beyond ‘representation’ by creating welcoming environments where all individuals feel respected, valued and supported.”

The sentiments and goals embodied in our plan are poignant, in light of the horrific shooting in Orlando, Fla., over the weekend. Our hearts and prayers go out to the victims, survivors, their family and friends, and to the city of Orlando.

As a school, we are limited in our ability to fight terror and hatred. But we can fight ignorance, and we can foster respect and civility by vigorously encouraging diversity and inclusion. This weekend’s atrocity has made the importance of our endeavors in these areas evermore clear.

Progress on Internationalization

I want to share an important document:  “Strategic Plan for Internationalization/Vision 2020.”

Written by Ricardo Castro-Salazar, Acting Vice President for International Development, the comprehensive report details the strides the College has made in multiple areas: infusing global knowledge into the curriculum, creating a language institute, developing community and global engagement, developing a study abroad program, identifying opportunities for workforce development in the international arena, providing international and cultural development for employees, and expanding international student outreach, recruitment and services.

The importance of these endeavors to the success of all our students cannot be overstated. As Ricardo writes, it is necessary “to educate our community for interdependence, global citizenship skills, and to bring the world to our students, a world driven by a global economy and challenges that transcend national borders.” Bringing the world to Pima is an ambitious undertaking that will benefit our students, city and region academically, culturally and economically.

[Read an executive summary of the report.]

Fiscal stewardship

Below is a release sent to the media today headlined “PCC’s Budget Drops $11 Million for 2016-17”

Tucson, AZ – Pima Community College’s Governing Board voted Wednesday to approve the College’s fiscal 2016-17 budget of $247.8 million, a decrease of approximately $11 million, or 4 percent, when compared to the current year budget.

The 2016-2017 budget reflects a significant reduction in spending made by the College to better align its finances and organizational structure with expenditure limitation, revenue, and enrollment challenges and realities. The spending reduction aligns with internal spending decreases that have been in place since July 1, 2015, as well as with the expenditure limitation plan that the College has been publicizing.

The Board of Governors also approved a 1.0 percent increase in the College’s primary property tax levy for fiscal year 2016-17. The funds generated by the levy increase will be used to support capital projects for fiscal year 2017, and will enable the College to implement the initial elements of the educational and facilities master plans that are currently being shaped. The total increase in primary property tax revenues from both new and existing property compared to the fiscal year 2015-2016 budget will be approximately $3.1 million: $2.0 million from growth of new property; and about $1.1 million from the 1.0 percent levy increase. The total primary property tax levy for fiscal year 2017 is projected to be about $107.3 million.

Assuming that assessed property tax values are unchanged year to year, for a residential home with a full cash value of $100,000, the College’s primary property tax levy will result in a tax bill of $137.33, an increase of 44 cents over the current year. For a class one commercial property with a full cash value of $100,000, and assuming an unchanged assessed value, the College’s primary property tax levy will result in a tax bill of $247.19, a decrease of -$6.06 over the current year. Due to the reduction in the assessment ratio for class one commercial property, commercial class one property taxpayers will likely see a reduction in the property tax payable to support College operations.

The College’s primary property tax rate continues to be below the average of its peers, and the primary property tax rate for fiscal year 2017, $1.3733 is almost the same as that from fiscal year 2000, 17 years ago. Pima Community College’s secondary property tax rate will remain at zero.

A presentation made to the Board of Governors on Truth in Taxation and Adoption of Fiscal Year 2017 Proposed Budget is available on the College’s website.