A plan to revamp remedial education and raise the bar on admissions was endorsed Wednesday night by the Pima Community College governing board.
About 150 people attended the meeting, which included three hours of public testimony and discussion before the board voted 4-1 in favor of higher standards to enroll in the college.
Board chair Marty Cortez congratulated the college for "the bravery of attacking this issue" of failures in remedial education. Board member Sherryn "Vikki" Marshall was the sole vote not to endorse the plan.
The board based its decision on flawed research about the success of students in certain remedial education classes, some opponents said. Others added that the board should have taken more time to consider alternatives.
Beginning in March, students must show a high school transcript or official GED scores within two months of registration.
All students must take a placement test, and those reading, writing or doing math below grade level 7 will be referred to a low-cost, non-credit college "bridge" program to help them get ready for college courses.
About 2,300 students are expected to have to go through the new remedial bridge classes.
"This program, Pathways to Pima, is a testament to the college's commitment to opening new avenues for students to succeed," the board said in a statement. "It is important to note that the college's intent is to expand and strengthen developmental education."
PCC will quit offering the lowest tier of remedial classes - Math 82, Reading 71 and Writing 70. Pima students who have deficiencies will still be placed in other levels of remedial education.
Faculty members strongly support the changes, said faculty president and math instructor Diann Porter.
"We want our students to be prepared for college-level classes, not frustrated and unsure," Porter said. "We support the changes that we believe have a good chance to make success a reality for our students."
Some opponents doubt the value of the Pathways program.
"It will take a great deal for the college to show that what it is proposing is better than what it is taking away," said Greg Hart, a former PCC dean.
Some former faculty members signed letters of opposition to the changes, saying they will harm open access to higher education.
"This change in philosophy … to me is like a hospital that allows the doctors and nurses to decide who its patients will be and only admit those who have positive, healthy lifestyles," said former PCC faculty member Herman Warrior.
The policy ultimately gives the college "flexibility to be able to try different approaches to help people succeed," Chancellor Roy Flores said.
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