Aviation Technology Center update

Here is a message I sent to the College community regarding our Aviation Technology Center:

I have good news to share about our Aviation Technology Center (ATC).  The College was notified on May 17 that the Higher Learning Commission’s Review Committee has recommended approval of the ATC as an additional location, and this will be voted on at the HLC’s June 26 & 27 meeting.

If you’ll remember, when a college offers more than 50 percent of the coursework of a program at a location geographically separate from a main campus (in ATC’s case, Desert Vista), the HLC must approve the site. [You can read more about this and other topics in my synopsis of a May 5 financial aid training for administrators.]

Wednesday, Desert Vista Campus Vice President Ted Roush notified Aviation students of the HLC’s recommendation, which eliminates the need to move classes from the ATC to other PCC locations.

The students also were updated that the College still is waiting for the Department of Education to approve disbursement of financial aid to students taking courses at the ATC. The College has been reaching out to Summer 2016 Financial Aid-certified students at the ATC to inform them that their tuition and other expenses that would have been funded with federal financial aid will be paid instead with institutional and private funds. Each student’s financial situation is unique; aviation academic advisors, counselors and financial aid staff are working with Financial Aid-certified students individually to make sure there is a clear understanding of the process. But it’s important to reiterate: all eligible financial aid Aviation students will be held harmless for the summer.

Bringing the Aviation Technology Center into compliance with HLC and Department of Education rules is crucial to ensuring the success of our students in the highly regarded Aviation program. It also serves as an example of the importance of transparency and accountability amid the complexity of higher education regulation. All across the College, employees are working to bring us into compliance with accreditors and regulators so that students can reap the benefits of a PCC education. I thank you for your dedication to doing things right.

View a fact sheet, for more information regarding the Aviation site approval process.

Graduation season

May is the best month of the year at Pima Community College, because that is when we celebrate the achievements of our students. And yes, it takes most of a month to recognize all of their amazing accomplishments.

I have been fortunate to participate in several of the ceremonies. On May 5, I attended a celebration of the accomplishments of students in our Honors Program. The students balance meeting the program’s rigorous academic requirements with work and family life. As part of the event, students displayed and explained the results of their semester-long research projects.

On May 6, I spoke at Multicultural Convocation, our annual celebration of diversity and inclusion. The stories of grit and determination were inspiring shared by the students were inspiring.  I asked the students to consider the words of Sonia Sotomayor, the first Latina to serve on the U.S. Supreme Court, to remind them about family and heritage: “It is important for all of us to appreciate where we come from and how that history has really shaped us in ways that we might not understand.”

For blogOn May 12, we celebrated the achievements of our students in Adult Basic Education for College & Career (ABECC) at a High School Equivalency Diploma graduation. The celebration had to be moved to a bigger venue because of the large number of graduates, a sure sign that ABECC is doing it right in fostering student success.

The month also included a candlelight pinning ceremony for Registered Nurses in our Nursing Program. Tonight and next week we will honor the graduates of our Paramedic, Law Enforcement and Fire Academy programs.

Last night, of course, was the main event, Graduation 2016. More than 750 graduates, accompanied by their friends and loved ones, received diplomas and certificates. It was an amazing night, thanks to the hard work of our faculty and staff.

I closed my graduation remarks with a quote, variously attributed to Jesse Jackson and Muhammad Ali: “If your mind can conceive it, and your heart can believe it, you can achieve it.” PCC students are achieving great things, and we are proud of their accomplishments.

[Commencement produced countless memorable images. You can find a few in this short video.]

Financial aid update

Below is a message sent to PCC employees last week regarding training for PCC administrators on the important topic of financial aid to students. The training focused on maintaining compliance with federal and state authorities and with our accrediting organizations.

Last Thursday, May 5, we held training for administrators on various compliance areas including some recently discovered PCC sites that do not appear to have gone through a required approval process with the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). This approval process is connected to federal financial aid (Title IV) regulations. At the conclusion of the training, we provided a short review of the training for other employees who were able to join us. This email includes a synopsis of the training and subsequent discussion. However, first I’d like to reiterate the importance of conversations like this.

Many of you have been proactively reviewing policies and procedures throughout the College to ensure that the institution is fully compliant with relevant regulations and requirements, especially those of the federal government and the HLC.

Together we’ve been able to uncover gaps or errors that needed to be corrected. We have self-disclosed to the HLC and the Dept. of Education the areas we’ve discovered, and we are working as a team to correct them. We have received compliments from our regulatory bodies for doing this, and they are working with us as we make these systemic changes throughout the College. Many of you have been part of this effort and your commitment to making things right shows how many people we have here at PCC who care deeply about the institution and our students.

Several aspects of how federal financial aid regulations impact College operations were reviewed in the training:

1. Selective Admissions – Students must be fully admitted into an eligible program before they can receive federal financial aid for that program. As of January 2016, PCC identified 26 programs that were not appropriately coded in Banner as having selective admission requirements, i.e. background checks or course prerequisites. As a result, some students were listed as admitted to a program even though they had not met all the program admissions requirements.
STATUS: IN PROGRESS. Programs are either being reconfigured so they are no longer Selective Admissions, or correctly coded as selective admissions. Students have been notified to either fulfill program admissions requirements or change their majors by 5-13-16.

2. Developmental Education – For developmental education courses to be eligible for federal financial aid, they must be at the 9th grade level or above, and be part of the developmental education sequence. Four courses were determined by the AZ Dept. of Education to be below 9th grade level and therefore ineligible for financial aid.
STATUS: COMPLETE. WRT 070, MAT 082, MAT 086, and REA 071 have been deactivated from financial aid eligibility, and a new developmental education sequence has been designed to comply with Department of Education regulations.

3. Course-to-Program Applicability – Students can only receive Title IV aid for courses in their declared program of study.
STATUS: COMPLETE, but labor intensive. Advisors are manually reviewing records to verify course-to-program applicability. The College is working on various I.T. solutions to automate this process.

4. Satisfactory Academic Progress (SAP) – The Financial Aid SAP policy must be “as strict as” the institutional SAP policy.
STATUS: COMPLETE. Standards were changed in Fall 2015 to meet the regulations. The Financial Aid SAP Appeals team has undergone training on the level of rigor expected in SAP Appeals review and will continue to do so to maintain compliance and consistency.

5. Administrative Capability — The Department of Education requires that conflicting information be resolved and a system of checks and balances be put in place in the administration of Title IV aid. An HLC Substantive Change application and subsequent approval is required if a college offers more than 50% of a program at a location that is geographically separate from a main campus. Likewise, the Department of Education requires this HLC approval prior to disbursing aid to students attending at these additional locations. PCC discovered a mismatch between the list of approved locations with the HLC and the list of approved locations with the Department of Education.
STATUS: IN PROGRESS. We filed substantive change applications with the HLC in February to seek approval for offering more than 50% of a program at three additional locations (Aviation Technology Center, Maintenance & Security, Public Safety Academy) , and are hoping for approval over the next few weeks.We notified the Dept. of Ed of the mismatch between HLC additional locations and those listed by the Dept. of Ed as approved. They are conducting an offsite program review of two of the locations (Aviation Technology Center and Maintenance & Security), and we should expect to hear on their process in the next few weeks. As we are awaiting approval from the HLC and Dept. of Ed., summer classes at these additional locations are being relocated to the campuses, when possible.

Because Aviation courses cannot be relocated without additional approval from the FAA, the PCC and the PCC Foundation will provide scholarships to summer session students who would have received federal financial aid (Title IV). We hope to have the appropriate approvals for the fall semester from both the HLC and the Dept. of Ed. During the May 5 training, administrators were asked to report any other additional locations where PCC courses are taught, so that we can ensure proper reporting and approval is sought with the HLC and Dept. of Education

Final thoughts
As you can see, ensuring compliance in today’s higher education world has never been more complicated or absolutely necessary. In order to become the premier institution I know Pima can be, we must be self-reflective and knowledgeable about the regulatory bodies that impact the College. We want to do more than what is minimally required—we want to exceed the standard, and ensure that we are catching these issues ourselves.

Compliance is about transparency, accountability, and making sure we are enabling our students to achieve their hopes and dreams. Thanks for your help with this incredibly important work.

Reiterating our commitment to diversity

 

Earlier today, I sent the following message to all College employees:

Colleagues,

In December 2015, I wrote to the College community regarding our commitment to diversity and inclusion. Recently, some states have considered or enacted legislation that undermines anti-discrimination protections for the LGBTQ community. Thus, it is timely and appropriate to reiterate our ongoing pledge to live up to the College Value of People. Our Diversity Statement proclaims in part:

We cherish the diversity of our community and, in addition to equal opportunity and educational access for all, we respect and are inclusive of all beliefs, values, abilities, personal experiences and preferences, cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds, and worldviews. We believe our differences are our strength and a source of innovation, excellence, and competitiveness. [More information is available on our Diversity webpage.]

PCC is committed to adhering to all federal, state and local laws and regulations regarding institutions of higher education. Among these is the U.S. Department of Education’s Title IX statute, which protects students from discrimination on the basis of gender in education programs or activities that receive federal support.

Apart from laws and regulations, the College considers it a moral imperative to make our campuses places where all students, employees and community members feel secure and welcome, so they can focus on studies and activities that lead to student success. Together we remain resolved to move forward on the path leading to a multicultural society built on a foundation of civility, equity and social justice.

 

Futures Conference 2016

I delivered opening remarks to the Pima Community College Futures Conference late last month. The conference was attended by almost 160 PCC employees and government, education, business and community leaders. The question posed at the conference was simple and fundamental: “How does PCC know it has fulfilled its mission?”

The answer is critically important to the College. We need to demonstrate to the peer institutions who accredit us, and to the public, that we can accurately ascertain our strengths and areas needing improvement. Over the two-plus hours of the conference, attendees met in small groups. They proposed a wide range of indicators to effectively measure performance in several areas, including diversity, student access and success, and community engagement.

The information gathered at the conference will be refined and converted into Key Performance Indicators that, pending Governing Board approval, will be embedded into the College’s strategic planning process.

Naturally, given the topic, most of the conversation centered on numbers and analysis.  I closed with a reminder that the College, while committed to being data-informed and evidence-based, must never lose sight of its underlying values or its focus on the individual student. At my table I heard the story of one student, Martin, whose goal is to become a lawyer and who has trusted in us his dreams and hopes for the future. In listening to Martin, who is of modest means, I was reminded of a quote from Melinda Gates: “If you are successful, it is because somewhere, sometime, someone gave you a life or an idea that started you in the right direction. Remember also that you are indebted to life until you help some less fortunate person, just as you were helped.”

This was the third Futures Conference held by the College. All have been expertly organized by our Office of Institutional Research, Planning and Effectiveness. Dr. Nicola Richmond and her team — including Michelle Henry, David Purkiss, table facilitators and other volunteers – once again did a great job in bringing together a diverse group of internal and external constituents to creatively collaborate on an important topic.

Introducing PCC Spotlight

Spotlight Header
Yesterday, the College unveiled PCC Spotlight‘s inaugural edition. PCC Spotlight is a  monthly e-newsletter presenting news and information about a topic of importance to the community. The inaugural edition focuses on International Education at PCC. Some of the highlights:
  • Every dollar PCC spends on International Education generates revenue in excess of expenses.
  • Local students benefit from our international relationships through scholarships and increased access to classes.
  • PCC is participating in hemisphere-spanning initiatives that support cultural awareness and economic development.

PCC Spotlight can help keep the community aware of the changes PCC is making to fulfill its goal of becoming a premier community college, and I look forward to sharing new editions in the future.

Propelling economic development in Arizona

I am excited to note that last week Gov. Doug Ducey signed into law a measure that represents a major leap forward for Pima Community College and for the economic development of our state.

Through newly enacted Senate Bill 1322, community colleges will be able to help Arizona’s workforce rise to the top of a brutally competitive 21st-century global marketplace.

It removes some caps on spending money necessary to develop career and technical education programs in high-demand fields such as cybersecurity, nursing and aviation technology, and in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) sectors. It also provides relief for community colleges engaging in entrepreneurial activities, such as entering into contracts with employers to provide workforce training.

The law does not raise taxes. In fact, it protects the interests of taxpayers by establishing a clear, transparent method for estimating full-time student enrollment used to calculate the College’s expenditure limitation. The law provides PCC with the financial predictability necessary for effective strategic planning.

SB 1322 passed with bipartisan majorities in both the House and Senate. The Arizona Legislature and Gov. Ducey deserve praise for recognizing the legislation’s benefits to workforce and career readiness.

PCC joined with the state’s nine other community college districts in championing the legislation, but the effort would not have been successful without the backing of the area’s education, government, business and community leaders. Thank you for your ongoing support!

I am particularly proud of the way the College community stepped up, especially Executive Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration Dr. David Bea and Executive Assistant Carl Englander; Executive Director of Media, Government and Community Relations Libby Howell and Advanced Analyst Michael Peel; and contract lobbyist Jonathan Paton.

As Governing Board Chair Mark Hanna remarked last week in a message to the College community, “This success will translate into a stronger Pima Community College that develops and trains students to become future workers and leaders and in turn strengthen our community and its economy. You should be proud of your accomplishment and we appreciate your efforts.” Well said.