A number of University of Arizona students graduating this weekend have something special in common: they each got their start in higher education at Pima Community College.

PCC opened the door for me to higher education. PCC became my surrogate family, providing the guidance and support that launched me on a journey that led to a bachelor’s degree and later a master’s degree from the UA. I couldn’t have achieved my educational goals without PCC, and it changed my life, as it has for so many others.

Pima County’s community college provides accessible, affordable education and prepares students with transferable credits, academic skills and a foundation of successful experiences.

Here are a few examples of the many opportunities PCC provides to graduates who wish to transfer to a university:

  • PCC has several federally funded programs that assist transfer students. For example, the Desert Vista Campus is home to Project GReAT (Graduation, Retention, Academic Standing and Transfer), designed to help low-income students earn an associate’s degree with the goal of transferring to a four-year institution.

According to Program Director Hector Acosta, 80 percent of students going through the program transfer to a university. All students receive orientations, individual coaching and mentoring, and can participate in field trips to universities inside and outside the state.

  • PCC students expecting to transfer to the UA can enroll in STU 210 (Student Transfer Success), a course offered in collaboration with the UA. Paul Miller, associate director for enrollment services at the UA, calls STU 210 a bridge program and notes past studies have shown higher retention and graduation rates among those students who participated in the course. “It is the smoothest transition a PCC student can make to the UA.”
  • Scholarships for transfer students through the PCC Foundation also provide invaluable assistance. For example, the John and Helen Murphey Foundation funds eight student scholarships per year at $1,000 per semester for up to four semesters at PCC. The Wolslager Family Foundation scholarship provides approximately 15 scholarships per year for transfer students at $1,250 per semester for up to five semesters at PCC. This scholarship may carry over to the UA, and the amount of the gift increases with tuition.

Lexi Okurily, who graduated from PCC and now attends the UA with a Wolslager Family Foundation scholarship said, “I received the same education for less money and will graduate debt-free. I’ve benefited by being able to gain field experience rather than work to make ends meet.”

  • Partnerships with universities through branch admission offices also assist transfer students by providing easy access. The UA has office space at the PCC Downtown and West campuses, and NAU provides information at the PCC Community Campus. (ASU has a local presence elsewhere). A pilot program, Wildcat Decision Days at Pima, was added this year, allowing students who meet certain criteria to get same-day notification of acceptance to the UA.

PCC is providing excellent educational opportunities for students in our community. Individual lives are improved and the entire community gains from a more educated workforce with higher earning potential. We all benefit from PCC and we all need to support it.

Sarah T. Evans is a Pima Community College Foundation board member. She earned an associate’s degree in business administration from PCC, a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the UA and a master’s degree in public administration from the UA. She currently is director of Community and Neighborhood Relations at the UA. Contact her at sarahtevans@yahoo.com