Guest Column: Ending Pima College's open-admissions policy was wrong, and it must be restored

2013-07-07T00:00:00Z Guest Column: Ending Pima College's open-admissions policy was wrong, and it must be restoredDavid W. Gallagher Special To The Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

Open admissions has been a cornerstone of the community college movement throughout its history.

Virtually all community colleges have open-admissions policies. The concept of meeting students where they are and providing the necessary courses to help them get to where they want to go has provided millions of Americans with the opportunity to pursue their education.

Pima Community College has strongly supported the cornerstone and mission of open admissions since its birth several decades ago. Many county residents, some of whom had to drop out of school at an early age to help feed their families, came to PCC, ready and motivated to again pursue their formal education.

Knowing that many students needed basic/remedial/developmental teaching and learning, PCC provided numerous courses taught by highly trained and qualified faculty to accommodate those students, whose average age is 29.

As a result, many students quickly progressed into college-level course work, graduated, went on to the University of Arizona or got a better job. Open admissions at PCC opened doors and provided local residents with the tools and opportunities to contribute to our community.

Unfortunately, the former chancellor, and the Governing Board members who supported him, ended open admissions at the college. Now, students who need to start with basic/remedial/developmental education are referred to a noncredit "Prep Academy." Instead, they should be connected to the highly trained and qualified faculty and courses.

The ending of open admissions has contributed to lower enrollments at PCC and is one of many reasons the institution was placed on probation by the Higher Learning Commission.

Recent research supports "meeting students where they are" with competent, qualified faculty and courses that are integrated and a part of a college's vocational/occupational and academic/transfer programs, rather than separated from them. When students make connections with faculty, staff and peers who are part of programs that interest them, they are far more likely to succeed.

Millions of jobs in the U.S. go unfilled due to the lack of trained and skilled workers. At the same time, Tucson is considered one of the poorest cities in America. Pima County adult residents are in need of education and the area is in need of economic development.

Ending open admissions at PCC was a mistake.

Open admissions and the restoration of basic/remedial/developmental courses taught by skilled faculty members are needed now more than ever.

For the sake of residents who want to be students and for the sake of our community, the cornerstone of open admissions at Pima Community College must be fully restored.

David W. Gallagher is a retired PCC faculty member and a member of the Pima Open Admissions Coalition.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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