Tag Archives: training

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.

Defining our mission

Futures

PCC is committed to serving the needs of the community. A critical piece of this commitment must be serving the needs of the individual.

That was one of the insights emerging from the 2015 Futures Conference, which I had the privilege of attending on April 13. Approximately 100 community members and employees enjoyed a spirited discussion about a wide range of topics, including access, success, program excellence, stewardship, and more. The information gathered at the conference will inform PCC planning, and my thanks go to Assistant Vice Chancellor Nicola Richmond and her staff in Planning and Institutional Research for organizing an event that produced many great ideas. [A PowerPoint presentation from the conference is available on our website.]

Our inaugural Futures Conference, in April 2014, was devoted to strategic planning, as well as defining six directions for the College to pursue over the next two to three years. This year’s Futures Conference focused on our mission – our reason for being, the answer to the question, “Why does PCC exist?” [Our current mission statement is “to develop the community through learning.”] At the conference, one argument was made that the best answer regarding mission was “to serve every individual, every day.’’

However our mission is defined, it must drive PCC to success in ways that benefit our diverse students. One might need Adult Education, another Developmental Education. A student seeking the skills for gainful employment is best served if we successfully align Career and Technical Education curriculum with the needs of business and industry and offer short-term, stackable credentials. A student looking to obtain a bachelor’s degree makes it incumbent on us to improve connections with K-12, colleges and universities to ensure seamless transfer. A student balancing work and family obligations needs PCC to provide robust online programs.

I began and ended the conference with personal stories of students who succeeded at PCC after taking long and winding education journeys that sometimes tested their resolve. One of our former students graduated from a local high school, served in the military and graduated from college, yet could find work only as a server in a restaurant. “I did everything right,” she told U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez when he visited the Aviation Technology Center in January 2015, yet still had not reached her career goal. Then she found, on the ground, a piece of paper with information about Pima Community College. She got her start at PCC through that scrap of good fortune, completed our rigorous Aviation Technology program, and now works at Bombardier.

Every path to PCC is a bit different, but student success at PCC should be a function of effective systems, not serendipity. Our mission and vision statements, which will compel change at the College, should be the result of a transparent, inclusive, evidence-driven process. Working together, PCC can help individuals achieve their goals so that collectively they form the foundation of a stable, prosperous community.

Building better pathways to in-demand careers

The reinvigorated push for better job training announced this week by the White House is important for numerous reasons. As PCC’s chancellor, what struck me was the critical role community colleges are again being called upon to play in readying our workforce for the in-demand jobs of the 21st century.

One of the key themes of the report, developed by a task force headed by Vice President Joe Biden, was the need for a systemic, connected approach by stakeholders. “Many businesses, community colleges, and state and local training programs … have found ways to successfully prepare Americans for these jobs. We must expand on these successful efforts and ensure that our entire system is learning from them.”

Clearly, PCC is well situated to make a critical difference in clearing the path to jobs that lead to the growth of a thriving middle class. Our connections to the Workforce Investment Board, Pima County One Stop and JobPath have proven to be extremely beneficial. For example, by allying ourselves with One Stop to implement the Health Professions Opportunity Grant, we have been able to help hundreds formerly jobless men and women find careers in the fast-growing healthcare sector.

The report emphasizes the need to align training and curricula with employer needs and expectations. PCC is a member of the National Coalition of Certification Centers, and I can vouch for the importance of industry-driven credentials that validate the skills and knowledge we have imparted to our students.

The signing of the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is another generally positive step for workforce training. In addition to streamlining federal programs, this bipartisan legislation sets standards for measurements of effectiveness. The initiative aligns with the College’s goal of improving assessment through development of metrics regarding tangible outcomes to the extent that our access to data allows.

Looking ahead, it’s clear that the College should aggressively pursue resources that advance job training efforts. Our participation in the Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant program (TAACCCT) has been extremely successful, and is an example that should be replicated. As part of a consortium of the state’s community colleges, PCC prepares students for skilled, high-wage jobs in the energy industry. This program is geared to helping military veterans and other adult learners. Working in partnership the Tucson Electric Power Co. we have developed an Electrical Utility Technology certificate.

Our participation in an Arizona Commerce Authority-facilitated sector partnerships initiative also holds great potential. In sector partnerships, employers work with governments, educators, labor, economic development groups and community organizations on a holistic approach to growth. We can do our part by providing an education pipeline producing qualified workers such industries as aerospace, renewable energy and optics.

The College knows what is effective in helping people find meaningful work. Now we need to get to work. I am confident that by taking advantage of our improved, inclusive strategic planning structure, and with the leadership provided by our new Community Campus President, Dr. Lorraine Morales, we can effectively coordinate with our partners for the betterment of the community. PCC can, as President Obama said in his State of the Union address, set our students on an upward trajectory for life.

Thank you, Ed Stolmaker

Something very nice happened at last night’s Governing Board meeting. An important member of the business community came forward to publicly praise PCC.

Ed Stolmaker, the president and CEO of the Marana Chamber of Commerce, expressed his support for “the vision and mission” of the College because of the role we play in training our region’s workforce.

“Our business community needs a skilled workforce that is able to meet and exceed the changing demands of today’s employers,” he said. “Creating jobs and growing our local economy are key to our success.”

Well put, Ed. Thank you.

Preventing sexual harassment

More than 450 members of the PCC community – administrators in the Chancellor’s cabinet, staff, faculty, and Governing Board members – took part in a recent round of training in responding to, assessing and preventing sexual harassment in our workplace.

I led the training for the cabinet, and partnered with our Human Resources staff to deliver training to our campuses and facilities. [You can view the PowerPoint presentation here.] I believe the often-lively discussions the training sparked helped clarify the issue for participants.

To put the training into a larger context, PCC is committed to maintaining a workplace and educational environment free of all forms of discrimination and harassment. Sexual harassment is a particularly virulent form of discrimination. It cannot be tolerated, and no one should be afraid to speak out.

We hope to extend the training to more supervisors and all new hires. At all levels of the College, we need to drive home these everyday truths: When your co-workers become your subordinates or your superiors, your relationship with them changes profoundly; and, ultimately, we are all responsible for each other.

The College is in the midst of a conversation about promoting respect, civility and honest communication. Change takes time. When trust has been broken, the wounds heal slowly. It is hoped that training our employees to effectively respond to and prevent sexual harassment will be a major step in an ongoing effort to improve our connections with students and co-workers.

Building the foundation for economic growth

Chancellor_CTD Gala_9-4-13

The celebration of our Center for Training and Development’s 50th birthday is an appropriate time to acknowledge CTD’s accomplishments and focus on the ever-increasing challenge Pima Community College and Tucson will face regarding the area’s No. 1 priority: jobs.

Last night I had the pleasure of attending CTD’s 50th anniversary reception gala, which marked the establishment of an endowment fund to support current and future CTD students with scholarships and other funds, as well as providing professional development and program support.

 Since its founding as the Tucson Skills Center in 1963, CTD has touched the lives of nearly 50,000 people, providing high-quality training leading to immediate jobs or to job advancement in the health, culinary and food service and business professions. It boasts a 90 percent completion rate and an 85 percent job placement rate. CTD completers average an hourly increase in wages of $4 to $6.

One example of CTD’s impact is the Pathways to Healthcare program. The College and its great partner, Pima County OneStop, are working together to administer the initiative, which is funded by a five-year, $18.5 million federal grant targeting the area’s poor.  So far, nearly 400 individuals have completed training, most in CTD programs, in fields that range from home health aides and medical billers to paramedics and nursing assistants. For businesses, CTD provides a pipeline of talent. For those folks who complete the program, it is a steppingstone into meaningful work. It is life-changing.

Our collaboration with OneStop demonstrates the importance of partnerships between educators, businesses, government and community groups. CTD has numerous connections to hospitals and other healthcare providers, the culinary industry and community organizations. The need to work across sectors, leverage resources and be responsive to current and emerging challenges is more acute than ever. That is because the needs of our region are profound.

Data tell the story. As I have written before, Tucson has the dubious distinction of being the sixth-poorest city in the U.S. The Pima County unemployment rate is 7.2 percent, and the numbers of people employed or actively looking for work are declining, The Pima County average weekly wage of $795 a week is far lower than in Maricopa County ($905) or the U.S. average ($903). Fewer than three-quarters of Pima County’s high school students graduate. Arizona ranks 43rd in creating private-sector jobs.

 And jobs, as Gallup CEO Jim Clifton says, are becoming “the new currency” for leaders, whether at the national or local level. We all need to do better training, attracting and holding onto workers capable of filling the jobs of the 21st century.

Pima Community College stands ready to strengthen its relationships to meet the needs of area businesses. PCC’s goal should be to make Tucson a place where businesses want to expand or relocate to. Toward that end, we will work to become more data-informed, so that we can allocate scarce resources based on evidence, not hunches. I intend to make sure PCC:

  •  Tracks its graduates as they enter and move through the workforce
  • Engages business and industry through advisory committees and other instruments in order to get a head start on emerging trends
  • Gauges employer satisfaction with our graduates
  • Aligns curriculum and faculty/staff development with business and community needs
  • Maintains industry-recognized, third-party-validated and -certified state-of-the-art programs.

Henry Ford said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.” I will see to it that  PCC does its part to be a leader and a catalyst for change as our community works together to build a solid foundation of economic growth.

Fighting poverty

As a finalist for chancellor of PCC this spring, I read extensively about Tucson to learn more about the community the College serves. Among the data I came across, one statistic stood out.

Tucson is the sixth-poorest metropolitan area in the U.S., according to the U.S. Census Bureau, with 1 in 5 Tucsonans living below the poverty line in 2011. In the aggregate, poverty correlates to high unemployment, anemic economic growth, poor academic achievement and low-paying jobs. Individually, it invariably amounts to the dispiriting sense that the American Dream is receding ever further from reach.

The statistic is, of course, sobering. But it is heartening that in the six weeks I have been Chancellor, I’ve talked to a wide variety of people – decision-makers in business, education, government, as well as leaders of civic and faith-based organizations, and students and others just trying to make ends meet – and not one has lost hope. No one accepts that decline is our destiny.

As a first step in fighting back, one must comprehensively identify a problem, and I want to congratulate Tucson’s daily newspaper, the Arizona Daily Star, for shining a light on the issue. The Star this week is publishing an in-depth series on poverty in Tucson — its causes, human impact and solutions. And I am pleased that the Star, in chronicling one of many solutions to this multifaceted problem, has spotlighted the effectiveness of the Pathways to Healthcare program, a partnership between PCC and the county’s OneStop Career Center, in breaking the cycle of poverty.

Pathways to Healthcare is funded through an $18.5 million U.S. Department of Health and Human Services grant offering financial assistance for low-income people to train in high-demand health professions. Most of the training is offered through PCC’s Center for Training and Development.

As of August 1, 950 students had signed up for Pathways assistance. Pathways’ goal is to enroll a total of 1,750 to 2,000 students over the five-year life of the grant.

As of August 1, 378 of the 950 Pathways participants had completed training in fields that range from home health aides and medical billers to paramedics and nursing assistants. A total of  310  Pathways participants have gotten jobs. Now for the real bottom line: The average entry-level hourly wage for participants employed in the healthcare sector is $12.05. Compare that to Arizona’s minimum hourly wage of $7.80.

Pathways to Healthcare is but one attempt by PCC to improve the future economy of our community through meaningful employment. I will write about others in the days to come. It is appropriate that a public conversation is taking shape now on this critical issue. Fifty years ago this month, hundreds of thousands of Americans converged on Washington, D.C., to hear Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his landmark “I Have a Dream” speech. Dr. King knew that gaining political rights without economic opportunity was a half-victory.  In fact, the event was called the “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.” In 1963, the link between the two was clear. It remains so today.