Public-Private Investment Creates the Arizona Center for Student Success at Ten Community Colleges in the State
By Kris McBride
Thatcher, AZ— The Office of the Governor, Helios Education Foundation, Pima Community College Foundation, and the Arizona Community Foundation have jointly awarded a $1,350,000 grant to create the Arizona Center for Student Success at the ten community colleges in the state. This newly created center will assist traditionally underserved student’s complete certificates and associate degree programs that move them directly into high-demand jobs or transfer programs into the university system.
The Arizona Center for Student Success (Center) joins the national Student Success Center Network, managed by JFF, a national nonprofit that drives transformation in the American labor market through system disruption and innovation at scale. The Center is part of an emerging trend in the national college completion movement in states traditionally void of a strong centralized tradition of community college governance. Its role is to organize Arizona’s ten community college districts around the common goal of improving student persistence and completion.
“My administration has worked extensively with business and education leaders to advance the Achieve60AZ initiative to increase postsecondary attainment rates in the state,” stated Governor Doug Ducey. “The Arizona Center for Student Success will enhance this initiative by boosting community college completion rates and by extension will lead to a more robust and effective workforce.”
Arizona’s community colleges provide the most efficient pathways to a four-year college or university. More than 78 percent of students who transfer from an Arizona community college to a public university with an associate’s degree go on to graduate with a bachelor’s degree within six years.
Arizona’s community colleges are also the recognized leader for regional workforce development, serving nearly twice as many students as Arizona public universities and offering hundreds of career-ready certificates and associate degree programs.
“The Arizona Center for Student Success will be instrumental in helping reach Arizona’s postsecondary attainment goal. It directly aligns with the vision of Achieve60AZ, which is to have a diverse, well-educated, highly-skilled workforce in our state,” said Vince Yanez, senior vice president, Arizona Community Engagement. “Helios is pleased to help support the efforts to identify and implement proven strategies to increase student success and degree completion.”
“One reason students are drawn to community colleges is we prepare them to be career-ready quickly,” stated Dr. Colleen A. Smith, president of Coconino Community College, and chair of the Arizona Community College Coordinating Council. “After they graduate, they continue to bring economic vitality to our communities because more than 85 percent stay in Arizona and contribute $13 billion in added income.” President Smith further stated that “Maricopa Community Colleges Chancellor Dr. Maria Harper-Marinick and Central Arizona President Dr. Jackie Elliot were instrumental in obtaining funding and writing the proposal for this initiative which will benefits students all over the State of Arizona.”
The Arizona Center for Student Success will build a cohesive approach to engagement, learning, and policy advocacy across the state’s community colleges. “Arizona’s community colleges have a history of reducing barriers to student success and ensuring equitable opportunities,” stated Steve Seleznow, president & CEO of the Arizona Community Foundation. “We are proud to be a partner in this collaborative approach that has the potential to help more students from diverse backgrounds succeed in postsecondary education.”
The Arizona Center for Student Success will focus on helping Arizona’s community colleges fundamentally redesign the way students chose, enter, navigate, and complete programs that prepare them for further education and careers. This will entail a guided pathway approach that replaces the cafeteria model that most colleges use for students to choose from a broad range of disconnected courses, programs, and support services.
“Students often have difficulty navigating choices and end up making poor decisions about what program to enter, what courses to take, and when to seek help,” stated Dr. Jackie Elliot, president and CEO of Central Arizona College. “The Arizona Center for Student Success will help us implement guided pathways and give students what they need to make more informed choices.”
JFF will aid in launching the new Center, continue to provide strategic guidance, and strengthen state-level capacity for data-informed decision making on efforts to increase community college completion rates. The Center’s first convening, scheduled for June 10, 2019, will assist in developing program priorities for the upcoming year.
“Students are at the core of everything we do at Eastern Arizona College,” stated Todd Haynie, president, Eastern Arizona College. “The guided pathway approach will help students complete degrees more quickly and at a lower cost. We look forward to working with the Arizona Center for Student Success to help guide us through successful implementation.”
About Arizona’s Community Colleges
Connected through shared goals of access and service, Arizona’s ten community college districts assure high-quality education, open admissions, and affordable tuition. Together, Arizona’s community colleges serve 293,940 students each year, nearly double the 162,324 students at Arizona public universities. Offering hundreds of work-ready certificates and programs, they provide the primary gateway to higher learning and a variety of educational opportunities serving today’s diverse student body. Fully accredited by the Higher Learning Commission, Arizona’s community colleges are the major pipeline for job creation, the employability of Arizona citizens, and the economic prosperity of families and communities.
JFF is a national nonprofit that drives transformation in the American workforce and education systems. For 35 years, JFF has led the way in designing innovative and scalable solutions that create access to economic advancement for all. Join us as we build a future that works.