Threatened with losing accreditation, Pima Community College is expected to open admission to all students, reversing a policy that sent very poorly prepared students to alternative programs. Accreditors also criticized the Arizona college’s leadership problems, including mismanagement by past and present administrators, a “culture of fear” and an allegedly absentee governing board, reports Inside Higher Ed. In addition, Roy Flores, Pima’s former chancellor, has been accused of sexual harassment.
Eager for Pima to become a four-year college, Flores pushed through tighter admissions standards, arguing that students who test below the seventh grade in reading and math “have little chance of succeeding in a college environment,” Only 5 percent of students in remedial classes advance to college-level work, Flores wrote in the Arizona Star.
The accreditation team said that caused Pima to fail an accreditation test: The “institution’s mission demonstrates commitment to the public good.”
“The college’s decision to change its admissions policy despite community opposition conflicts with its stated mission of developing the community through learning,” wrote Sylvia Manning, the commission’s president, “and demonstrates a lack of understanding of its role in serving the public good in its community.”
In 2011, Pima began turning away students who scored poorly on a placement test, ACT’s COMPASS. The number of full-time remedial students declined by 30 percent that year, leading to a 28 percent cut in faculty slots.
The college’s leadership has recommended that the new admissions standards be dropped.
Pima Community College‘s Sprint Schedule will let students complete a liberal arts associate degree in one year. Sprinters will take a mix of web-based, classroom and hybrid classes to earn least 23 credits in the fall and spring semesters and 15 credits in the summer semester. The recommended schedule requires only two days a week on campus at the Tucson college.
To appease angry students, Santa Monica College has suspended plans to charge four times more for quick access to high-demand classes. But demand still exceeds supply of classroom seats and that means some other form of rationing, write Sandy Baum and Michael McPherson in the Chronicle of Higher Education.
What happens if you don’t respond to excess demand by raising the price? . . . We can make people wait in line or we can develop a more systematic method of choosing among eager consumers. That might be through some evidence-based method for choosing those who either need the product most or have characteristics making them most likely to use it well. Or it might be through a lottery of some sort.
…We could fund the institutions better so they could offer enough sections of the necessary courses. We could raise the price for all courses for all students. Or we can ration. But just saying no to a price hike doesn’t settle the question: some process will determine who will get the sought after prize, and you need to figure out what that process will be.
Despite the sharp rise in tuition at California’s community colleges, students still pay less than community college students elsewhere. And they get less in terms of access to classes, paying in time instead of money.
Differential tuition isn’t new at community colleges, writes Paul Fain in Inside Higher Ed. However, colleges typically charge more only for special programs outside the core mission or for courses that cost more to teach, such as engineering or nursing courses that require specialized equipment and small class sizes.
Pima Community College, a large institution in Arizona, this spring introduced differential tuition for high-cost offerings like veterinary technology and dental hygiene. The college studied the cost of delivery for disciplines over four years, according to college officials. To be picked for differential rates, which are 30 or 40 percent higher than standard tuition, courses needed to exceed the median cost for at least two consecutive years.
Some colleges also charge more for online courses, hoping to create a cash cow.
In response to budget cuts, community colleges are downsizing, reports USA Today.
Texarkana College in Texas is one of the latest schools to drop intercollegiate sports.
A group of older adults is working to keep alive some version of Santa Barbara City College‘s continuing education division, which offers free classes in subjects such as financial planning and pastry-making.
Starting this summer, Pima Community College in Tucson will no longer offer remediation for incoming adult students who fail a seventh-grade-level test of reading, writing and math.
Community colleges are focusing on improving completion rates and retraining workers who’ve been laid off.
“The challenge of this decade for community colleges is to make hard choices about whom they will serve, and in what ways,” says Kay McClenney, director of the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas.
Pima Community College in Tucson will restrict admission to high school graduates or GED holders with at least seventh-grade proficiency in reading, writing and math, starting in 2012. The new admissions standards will encourage success, writes Roy Flores, the college president, the Arizona Star.
“Students who test below this level have little chance of succeeding in a college environment,” Flores writes. Only 5 percent of students in remedial classes advance to college-level work.
Pathways to Pima will replace PCC’s lowest-level developmental education classes with counseling, diagnostic testing and “self-paced, computer-based or face-to-face learning modules” that will prepare low-skilled students to meet the seventh-grade standard and start college. Students in Pathways programs will not earn college credit or be eligible for federal aid.
Of 35,000 students at PCC, about 2,300 students — 6.3 percent — test below the seventh-grade level.
Pima is abandoning its mission to save money, argues Pamela Powers in the Tucson Citizen.
With the new entrance procedures and the elimination of remedial classes, Pima will cut approximately 200 adjunct professor positions.
PCC has done little to help low-skilled students, writes Greg Hart, a former adult education dean at the college. A 2000 task force recommended replacing remedial classes with a “skill-mastery model,” but nothing was done.
In 2009, 89 percent of new students were placed in remedial math, 35 percent in remedial reading and 51 percent in remedial writing. Pima spends more than $20 million a year on “developmental education” at its six Tucson campuses.
Outcomes are terrible: Only 4.1 percent of low-level remedial math students in 2004 completed an associate degree by 2009. Only 2.2 percent of students in the lowest remedial reading level in 2004 had taken a single college-level reading class by 2006; only 6.1 percent had taken any college-level class.
In summary, students testing into the lowest levels of developmental education have virtually no chance of ever moving beyond remedial work and achieving their educational goals. For those students and their families, developmental education is expensive and demoralizing.
Pima is looking at other community colleges’ promising approaches to improving remedial education, but the college also is redefining its open-door admissions policy.
Arizona law mandates that admission be granted to any person who “demonstrates evidence of potential success in the community college.” But, as our outcomes data show, some people who come here simply have not received the education needed to succeed in college. To admit those men and women – some of whom have the equivalent of no better than a middle-school education — and accept their tuition payment, knowing that they have virtually no chance of becoming college-ready, is callous at best.
The college thus intends to amend its open admissions policy for degree- and certificate-seeking students 18 and older to require a high school diploma or its equivalent, and to require appropriate scores on assessment tests. Only students who score at the very bottom will not be admitted.
Pima will refer students who don’t meet admissions standards to adult education.
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer has proposed a 56 percent reduction in state funding for community colleges on top of a 30 percent cut in state aid over the past two years. “The state is sending us an explicit message,” Flores writes. “You must drastically reduce programs and services.”
The college also receives local funding, but property tax revenue is down because real estate prices have plummeted.
Pima is faced with funding remedial classes with a poor track record or putting the money into desperately needed job training programs, which have proven far more successful.
Flores hopes the new new admissions policy will “spur an honest examination of education in Pima County.” Why are so many high school graduates unprepared to succeed at community college?
It’s easy to say Pima Community College should have “done something” to get Jared Loughner into mental-health treatment, writes Community College Dean. But it’s remarkably hard to do more than suspend a student who appears to be mentally ill.
Like many, my college established a Threat Assessment Team after the Virginia Tech massacre. The team has faculty, counselors, student affairs leadership, an academic dean, and the head of security on it. It examines cases brought to it by concerned members of the college community about people on campus who are exhibiting signs of being dangerous.
. . . Okay, a student is pale and withdrawn, young, male, socially awkward, sometimes angry, and frequently in his own world. Is he dangerous or just weird? How do you know? That same student writes a paper in which he admits fantasizing about buying an Uzi, driving to the worst part of town, and “doing some justice.” (I’m describing a student I had in one of my classes about ten years ago.) Is he a mass murderer in the making, or just someone who has watched way too many action movies? How do you know?
It’s easier in Arizona than in most states to get a judge to order a mental-health evaluation. College officials, the sheriff’s department or Loughner’s parents could have done it. If they had, it probably would have saved the lives of six people. But what’s clear in hindsight is not so clear at the time.
A former student has sued Brooklyn College charging she spent two weeks in a psychiatric hospital after reporting suspicions that her roommate or landlord had planted a video camera in her bedroom.
The new lawsuit alleges that when (Sophia) Eze went to Brooklyn College’s security office to voice her suspicions, a college psychological counselor was summoned. The counselor asked her a “series of personal questions pertaining to her psychological state of mind,” the suit said, including whether she was suicidal, heard voices or ever suffered from mental illness.
The lawsuit said that Ms. Eze answered all the questions in the negative, but that the counselor called an ambulance anyway and that Ms. Eze was “forcibly led into an ambulance.”
Eze already has won $110,000 in a lawsuit against the psychiatric hospital.
Few community colleges have psychiatrists on staff, notes Inside Higher Ed.
Fearing Jared Loughner was dangerously disturbed, Pima Community College officials banned him from campus until he could produce a mental-health clearance. But the college “took no steps to mandate that he have a psychiatric evaluation, which in Arizona is easier than in many states,” notes the New York Times. Could the college have done more to get Loughner into treatment before the shooting that left six people dead and a congresswoman fighting for her life?
The college has released records of Loughner’s run-ins with instructors and campus police. A number of instructors, administrators, students and plice officers were afraid he’d become violent.
His record of outbursts — and a video accusing the college of “genocide” and “torture” — should have triggered an involuntary evaluation, said Laura J. Waterman, the clinical director of the Southern Arizona Mental Health Corporation.
“Where does it reach a level where you say this person shouldn’t be a part of any community and we have a responsibility to do something about that?” she said. The clinic, which offers walk-in psychiatric crisis care regardless of a patient’s ability to pay, is one of the agencies Pima students are referred to when they need mental health services, including students who have been suspended like Mr. Loughner.
It appears Loughner never sought or received mental health care, the Times reports.
Pima has introduced policies to deal with disturbed students — similar to ones that swept campuses across the country after several deadly shootings, including the killing of 32 at Virginia Tech in 2007.
Last year Pima overhauled its procedure for campus disruptions, creating a team of senior officials to identify students who pose a threat to themselves or others. The team began meeting the same month that Mr. Loughner was suspended.
Suspending Loughner may have pushed him over the edge, isolating him even further from reality. But Pima Community College has no mental-health center on campus. It doesn’t monitor its students the way a residential college can.
Still, Arizona law lets any concerned person apply for a court-ordered mental evaluation, which can lead to mandated treatment. While Stella Bay, the college’s police chief, said Loughner didn’t meet the “imminent danger” standard, only “some evidence of danger” is needed, according to Waterman.
Since the weekend shootings, the number of applications for such evaluations at Ms. Waterman’s clinic has increased, she said, presumably because of widespread awareness of the issue now.
In fact, Ms. Bay called in a case on Monday about a student at Pima who threatened to cause harm on campus, according to Ms. Waterman.
The police brought the student to a hospital for an evaluation.
In addition to remedial math, where Loughner insisted that the number 6 is really 18, he took a jumble of courses, including poetry, public speaking, sign language, Bible studies and yoga.
His Pilates instructor, afraid of Loughner’s hostile reaction to her plans to give him a B grade, asked a police officer to monitor the class.
Jared Lee Loughner, 22, arrested for killing six people and wounding an Arizona congresswoman, was kicked out of Pima Community College in the fall for disrupting classes, reports the Arizona Republic.
Loughner reportedly left high school for a middle college program that let him take community college classes but didn’t earn a diploma. He took classes at Pima for five years before multiple run-ins with campus police in 2010 led to his suspension. He agreed to leave campus until he could supply a mental-health professional’s note saying he did not pose a danger to himself or others.
Afterward, Loughner continued posting angry rants about the college on YouTube and expanded his wrath to focus on the government. Loughner posted angry messages about government mind control, a new currency and his concern over what he described as illiteracy.
. . . “I can’t trust the current government because of fabrications,” Loughner wrote in a YouTube slide show. “The government is implying mind control and brainwash on the people by controlling grammar.”
Loughner’s algebra instructor at Pima feared he’d pull a gun, reports the Washington Post. Ben McGahee reported his student’s bizarre behavior to the dean, who removed him from class.
Lynda Sorenson, 52, another student in the class, said that Loughner was disruptive and unruly from the first day.
“There was never a time when he was in class that he was not disruptive, and he scared me. He frightened the daylights out of me,” Sorenson said in a telephone interview. “I kept saying to people, ‘I’m afraid he’s going to come into the class with a gun.’”
It’s hard to see what else community college officials could have done. Loughner’s parents were at the October meeting that led to his withdrawal. They must have known he was showing symptoms of mental illness — schizophrenia often hits in the teens and early 20′s — but perhaps weren’t able to get him to seek treatment.
It’s not clear why Loughner shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, a conservative Democrat. A self-declared fan of the Communist Manifesto and Mein Kampf, as well as The Wizard of Oz and Alice in Wonderland, Loughner had no coherent politics. He worried about government control of grammar.
Breaking with tradition, more community colleges plan to charge more for career and technology programs that cost more to deliver, reports Inside Higher Ed.
At Pima Community College in Tucson, demand is high for health sciences and engineering programs which require a low student-teacher ratios and costly lab equipment. Chancellor Roy Flores wants to phase in a 10 to 30 percent premium for courses such as nursing and avionics.
“The point is to guarantee access,” Flores said. “The access will be zero if the programs go away. I’m mindful of price elasticity and that some students might be shut out if the price goes too high.… But it’s a balancing act, and we’re a long way from shutting people out.”
Flores also wants to offer a tuition discount to students who take courses in “off-peak” hours.
Aims Community College in Colorado has charged differential tuition for five years.
The regular tuition rate for courses at the college is $65.40 per credit hour. Tuition for fire science and communications media is $115 per credit hour; tuition for the surgical technology program is $120 per credit hour; and finally, tuition for aviation, radiologic tech and nursing is $125 per credit hour.
No one knows how many community colleges charge premium rates for high-demand, high-cost programs, but the practice is expected to become spread as colleges try to meet higher demand with less funding.