Aviation Technology Center update

 

Here is a message I shared with the College community earlier today:

I am pleased to give you good news on the status of our Aviation Technology Center (ATC).

You will recall that when a college offers more than 50 percent of courses for a specific program at a location geographically separate from a main campus, the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) must approve the site.  Further, colleges are prohibited by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) from disbursing federal financial aid for programs at sites that have not been HLC-approved.

We discovered that PCC had never obtained this approval for the ATC site, and self-disclosed this fact to the HLC and ED.  We immediately filed for approval with the HLC, and did not disburse financial aid to Aviation students for the summer semester.  Instead, the College and the PCC Foundation provided affected students with institutional and Foundation scholarships.

I want to emphasize that through this whole process the Aviation program itself has remained fully accredited and approved by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the HLC.

On June 27, 2016, the HLC approved the ATC at Pima Community College as an additional location.  This means that the College is able to offer the various Aviation degrees and certificates at the ATC.  This approval also allowed the College to seek approval from ED to offer federal financial aid at this location.

We are awaiting final approval from ED, but based on our conversations with them, we are optimistic that this will occur before the fall financial aid disbursement date of September 9.  We also have learned that the Department is in the process of reviewing our Program Participation Agreement (PPA) and updating our Eligibility & Certification Approval Report (ECAR), which contains the ED list of Pima’s approved locations.  These are very positive signs.

On Thursday, August 4, 2016, Aviation leadership met with students, updated them on our progress, and discussed the College’s efforts to ensure that financial aid students remain unaffected.  The College is working to have contingency plans in place, should the ED approval be delayed past September 9.

I am encouraged by these developments, and I am proud of the staff and faculty who proactively identified this issue, and have been working to correct it.  Thanks to their efforts, this is one more example of the College’s progress toward becoming a premier institution of learning.

 

2 thoughts on “Aviation Technology Center update

  1. Dennise Ponce

    An Open Letter to PCC Chancellor and Members of the Board: “Hope” is not enough.

    Dear PCC Chancellor and Members of the Board of Directors,

    I am a dedicated student at Pima Community College (PCC), currently attending classes at the PCC Aviation Technology Center (ATC). I am one of the twenty-one students that joined an outstanding program in November 2015 under the instruction of knowledgeable and experienced faculty, and enthusiastic administrative staff. The program is in a top-notch educational institution location, with three Boeing 727s and small regional planes for hands-on training. I am among 100+ students at ATC pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in Aviation Technology degree and certificates in Airframe and Powerplant, Structural Repair, and/or Avionics. As students, we undergo a rigorous schedule at a demanding pace. The major setback we have encountered in the duration of this program, is a lack of transparency and timely notice of important events. As part of this setback, I would like to highlight the errors uncovered by the administration, and the fact, as we came to discover, that the Aviation Technology Center site at Pima Community College had no approval by the Higher Learning Commission or the U.S. Department of Education. Lack of approval which later affected disbursement of financial aid to students. Both students and staff at the Aviation Technology Center of Pima Community College were affected and left in the shadows throughout the situation.
    During the course of the program around May of 2016 the energy in the campus changed. A few classmates were impacted by Federal Financial Aid errors discovered by the administration. As it was mentioned on an e-mail sent by Chancellor Lee Lambert to PCC personnel on May 12th, “As of January 2016, PCC identified 26 programs that were not appropriately coded…as having selective admission requirements,….” (Review of May 5 Financial Aid Training). Our classes are scheduled for every month of the year and the program is mentally and financially challenging. My classmates and I were midway a 5 week course of Electricity and at that time it became known to a couple of them that “As a result, some students were listed as admitted to a program even though they had not met all the program admission requirements.” (Review of May 5 Financial Aid Training).
    A fellow former student was particularly affected by the news. I personally admired her given she is a single mother, drove to class five days a week from out of city limits, and had quit her full time job to dedicate her energy to a promising career in aviation, all in effort to improve her life and that of her child’s. As she related it, she resigned her job having a false security of a Federal Financial Aid loan available to her, to the extent that part of the loan was deposited to her bank account. As it was stated by Mr. Lee on May 12th “Students have been notified to either fulfill program admissions requirements or change their majors by 5-13-16” (Review of May 5 Financial Aid Training). Within a week her only financial income resource was no longer available. Had the administration not committed that error, or informed her promptly as the information was found, perhaps she could had kept her job, or had a financial plan in place. That month she dropped out of the college, broken and stressed; The aftermath of the manner in which the issue was handled by PCC administration.
    The day of May 4th 2016 classes were interrupted to hold a meeting with Mr. Ted Roush, Campus Vice President. All students and staff met at the hangar and were handed a sheet titled “Aviation Program Site Approval Fact Sheet” (Available to view on AZ Daily Star article). It was at that moment that all students became aware of the situation, the air in that space had never felt so heavy. We were told that anything that could be done was being done. As stated by Mr. Roush and the Fact Sheet “PCC applied for site approval of the ATC in February 2016, shortly after the discrepancy was discovered.” When asked by students why we were not made aware sooner, the answer, just like the one given to the AZ Daily Star, was that school officials were waiting until they “ had more concrete and useful details we could share with them.” (Alaimo) Students were assured that the events would have no effect on the current term of Spring 2016.
    Mr. Roush said that school officials were “hopeful” that they could reposition 50% of instruction to Desert Vista Campus in order to have financial aid reinstated. However if the FAA did not approve, financial aid could not be authorized for Summer 2016. But not to worry, said Mr. Roush, PCC would make up the difference and cover tuition for those who would ordinarily receive financial aid. And that the college expects to receive Department of Education site approval to reinstate Federal Financial Aid for Fall 2016. The word “hopeful” in this case applied as if I were to say “I’m hopeful I’ll pass the test” meaning I doubted how much I studied. I, like many other ATC students quit my job to dedicate time to school. We are scheduled eight hours a day, five days a week, and our courses run from 7:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m. Many of us rely on financial aid to cover transportation and living expenses and were expecting a Federal Financial Aid Loan to be deposited to our account a couple days later during the Spring semester. Unlike Mr. Roush promised, spring semester was indeed affected when all Federal Financial Aid was frozen and many of us were left stranded out of money, with no back-up plan in place to cover for transportation, food, rent and utilities. Within a week, several students’ only financial income resource no longer available. As of today, the Fall 2016 semester started 3 weeks ago, financial aid funds distribution is in a few days and the word “hopeful” still applies.
    As the Chancellor, or by sitting on the Board of Directors, it is your job to ensure compliance and transparency among the students that rely on your accountability. There needs to be clarity and urgency in the issues that directly affect the student’s ability to continue their education at the college. I would like for you Chancellor, and members of the Board, to understand the direct effect that these discrepancies have generated in students’ lives. I speak for all Aviation Technology students when I say that we would like future communications to be done in a timely fashion to allow those affected to take necessary precautions and preparation. Your concern will rebuild the trust that was lost.

    Sincerely,
    Dennise Ponce

    Works Cited

    https://pimachancellor.wordpress.com/tag/aviation-technology-center/

    https://pimachancellor.wordpress.com/2016/08/05/aviation-technology-center-update-3/

    https://www.pima.edu/about-pima/mission/index.html

    Alaimo, Carol Ann. Arizona Daily Star. Pima College aviation program not accredited; students lose aid http://tucson.com/news/local/education/college/pima-college-aviation-program-not-accredited-students-lose-aid/article_7ea13a20-ded8-5caf-841c-d08208604d76.html

    Reply
    1. pimachancellor Post author

      Dennise,

      I want to thank you for this thorough report and heartfelt reaction to the news regarding the Aviation Technology program and continued efforts to secure approval to disperse financial aid. Because of the real and deep impact this situation has on students, my team has been working diligently to mitigate the situation as much as possible.

      I can assure you that at every step in this process, PCC‘s objective was to keep students whole and as unaffected as possible. We are grateful to the Foundation for its support in the Summer and to Student Affairs and our faculty for identifying resources and alternative pathways for our Aviation Technology students. Further, going into the current five-week session, Aviation Technology students were made aware of the possibility the college would not be cleared by the U.S. Department of Education (DoE) to disperse federal financial aid. Even so, the college put considerable effort into seeking a resolution in time.

      It is important to clarify, of course, that Spring aid was not affected by the need for site approval from the DoE and Summer aid was covered through institutional and Foundation support. Regrettably, those funds are exhausted.

      We hear your concerns about the timeliness of communication. These past few weeks, we have worked diligently to seek answers from the DoE, even requesting the support of an intermediary. The American Association of Community Colleges was in direct contact with the DoE on our behalf in recent days. Communication with the DoE is ongoing, including today. We remained hopeful for a timely resolution because of the Higher Learning Commission’s earlier approval of the site and our work to get critical paperwork submitted early in our efforts, but this process is complicated and can take time.

      While it does not help the current situation, I can offer you assurances that every effort is being made to get students back on course as quickly as possible. While any delay in your program is unacceptable, we anticipate that the longest delay any student will face is five weeks. I am pleased to learn that most students will still be on track to finish on schedule.

      I also can assure you that the quality of instruction and the training you receive is in no way affected by the need for site approval. We encourage you and your fellow classmates to continue to work with us as we address the situation. As you stated, Aviation Technology is a promising career and we will do our best to prepare you for that career as quickly as possible.

      PCC is undergoing transformational change. We are actively and continuously seeking out problems and working hard to correct them. While that may not lessen your frustration now, I hope that you can see the college is committed to continuous improvement and to ensuring that future students see the same promise in PCC that you did and I hope will again.

      Reply

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