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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Pima Community College fighting to keep its accreditation

Rebecca+Noble+%2F+The+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+Downtown+Pima+Community+College+campus+on+Tuesday%2C+Sept.+23.+
Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildca
Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildcat The Downtown Pima Community College campus on Tuesday, Sept. 23.

Pima Community College staff, faculty and students and the Tucson community have been working tirelessly to improve PCC in order to have its current probation lifted in February 2015.

PCC was put on probation by the Higher Learning Commission, the commission that gives PCC its accreditation, in April 2013. The probation was put into effect for reasons that had nothing to do with academics or teaching at PCC, according to Dolores Duran-Cerda, senior assistant to the provost. PCC was not following certain criteria put into place by the HLC that keeps Pima an accredited community college, according to Duran-Cerda.

“We’re still accredited,” Duran-Cerda said. “Students’ credit from Pima can still transfer to UA, NAU and ASU.”

Duran-Cerda said that the reasons for probation had to do with governance, financial situations, complaints of lack of communication between administrators and allegations of sexual harassment from former Chancellor Roy Flores to various PCC employees.

When PCC learned about its probation in April 2013, it immediately took action to fix whatever needed to be fixed, Duran-Cerda said. PCC administration members, faculty, staff and students and Tucson community members have worked for 15 months to revitalize PCC, all working as volunteers, according to Duran-Cerda. They had until July 31 to submit a comprehensive self-study report, which went over every aspect of the college and noted what needed to be improved on by using a red, yellow and green system, she said.

Duran-Cerda added that the system was effective. When something was categorized as red, it meant it needed to be 100 percent fixed. When something was yellow, it meant it may have needed an aspect of it changed or fixed, and when something was green, it meant it met all the standards of the HLC and did not need to be changed.

“[We] went through every aspect of the college according to the HLC criteria,” said Duran-Cerda. “We had to show what we were doing and prove what we were doing.”

According to “Pima Community College: Before and After,” a PowerPoint that PCC made and showed to HLC representatives when they came to visit, the changes that PCC made included a revision and update of PCC policies, new procedures for governing contracts, evaluations of administrators to ensure that they are adhering to policies and procedures and new training for employees on the sexual harassment policy.

Nine representatives from community colleges and universities around the country and the HLC came to Tucson last week to do a comprehensive site visit, according to Duran-Cerda. The representatives visited every PCC campus in Tucson. The visit was a follow-up to the 300-page comprehensive self-study report that PCC submitted in July, Duran-Cerda said.

“They came to visit and talk to students, community members, staff and specific groups they had selected, just to see if the college was better and if it followed what the report said,” Duran-Cerda said.

Duran-Cerda said that the chair member of the team that came to visit PCC said the college had shown a “herculean effort” to fix their college.

Sofia Ramos, a professor in the department of Mexican American studies, is a PCC alumna and completed a two-year program there before transferring to the UA. She later spent time working as a professor at PCC and worked in student development at the college.
Ramos is actively involved in the revitalization of Pima and was a volunteer on the strategic planning committee during the 15-month effort to fix parts of PCC that did not meet the HLC criteria.

Ramos said that she was very disappointed when she heard about PCC’s probation, but believes that it is important to have oversight on colleges and universities. She said that she believes that PCC is key to the city of Tucson and Pima County.

Ramos added that she is very optimistic that the community college will be lifted from its probationary period in February 2015, and said that PCC is important to the community because the costs accommodate underrepresented and underprivileged students with lower incomes.

According to PCC’s website regarding its probationary status, the HLC team that came to visit in September will provide the college with a site visit report in October. PCC will then submit a response to the HLC site visit report in November, and in December, the HLC Institutional Actions Council will hold a hearing regarding PCC. The HLC Board of Trustees will inform the college on whether or not the probation has been lifted and if PCC will remain an accredited community college in February 2015.

“I believe in Pima and have seen firsthand the changes that the college has gone through, people respecting each other, Chancellor Lee Lambert advocating for transparency,” Duran-Cerda said. “It’s a collaborative effort.”
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Follow Adriana Espinosa on Twitter @Adrianaespi7

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