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Pima Community College

Miles: Step back on Pima admissions standards

PCC facing probation over end to open enrollment

In the wake of a critical report from an accrediting body, Pima Community College leaders recommended Friday that tightened admission standards be suspended for the next year.

Last week, a Higher Learning Commission report suggested that Pima be placed on probation, in part because of a 2011 move to end the school's open enrollment policy for most courses.

Pima's interim chancellor, Suzanne Miles, sent a letter to the PCC Governing Board recommending a reversal of the move toward tighter admission standards.

"At this time, we believe it would be in the best interests of the College to step back and re-examine how we ensure that our students are appropriately prepared for the rigors of college level work and equipped with the tools necessary to succeed," Miles wrote in a letter co-signed by Provost Jerry Migler.

Miles announced this week that she would step down from the interim chancellor's post and return to her position as president of the Community Campus.

The HLC report, in addition to questioning whether Pima's admission standards were an abandonment of its community mission, pointed to allegations that former college chief Roy Flores sexually harassed eight women, questioned Pima's awarding of high-dollar no-bid contracts, and described a culture of "fear and retribution" among campus faculty and staff.

The HLC is set to vote next month on whether to place PCC on probation for two years.

The accrediting body said, "The College’s decision to change its admissions policy despite community opposition conflicts with its stated mission of developing the community through learning and demonstrates a lack of understanding of its role in serving the public good in its community."

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"In addition, this change in policy appears to have been an effective change in mission that should have been preceded by a formal application to the Commission and Commission approval of that proposed change in mission," HLC President Sylvia Manning said in a letter to Miles about the report.

Pima tightened up enrollment standards for most courses in 2011, while directing unprepared students to remedial courses.

"Many students come to PCC far from ready for college," former Chancellor Roy Flores wrote at the time.

"Some have the equivalent of a fifth-grade education, or lower. Some are unable to write a sentence, because they do not know what nouns and verbs are. Some cannot add two multi-digit numbers, such as 1394 + 338. Our placement test data show that these unprepared students have only about a 1-in-20 chance of completing a college-level course, let alone graduating with a degree or certificate," Flores wrote.

"To continue to accept those students, and take their tuition money, knowing that the vast majority will not succeed, is ineffective and wastes taxpayer money. It will leave these students discouraged and in many cases, in debt," he wrote.

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Mar 22, 2013, 3:38 pm
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“Many students come to PCC far from ready for college,” former Chancellor Roy Flores wrote at the time.

“Some have the equivalent of a fifth-grade education, or lower. Some are unable to write a sentence, because they do not know what nouns and verbs are. Some cannot add two multi-digit numbers, such as 1394 + 338. Our placement test data show that these unprepared students have only about a 1-in-20 chance of completing a college-level course, let alone graduating with a degree or certificate,” Flores wrote.

“To continue to accept those students, and take their tuition money, knowing that the vast majority will not succeed, is ineffective and wastes taxpayer money. It will leave these students discouraged and in many cases, in debt,” he wrote.

I read a lot of crying about this when the decision was made, and I didn’t understand any of it at the time (or now). I am still waiting to see someone explain intelligently how the above doesn’t make 100% absolute sense.

I’m no fan of defending PCC, but this one they initially got right. It is shameful that one of the few positive moves they’ve made in recent years they’re now backpedaling on. They have a plethora of other reactionary changes they can make, and they’re picking this one? It boggles my mind.

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Will Seberger/TucsonSentinel.com

Miles in March 2012.

Miles letter to Pima Governing Board

Dear Members of the Board of Governors,

As you know, the Higher Learning Commission has raised serious questions regarding the College's new admissions standards. The HLC report echoes concerns expressed by members of our community. These concerns persist, as we heard at the March 20, 2013 Board meeting.

Due to these circumstances, Provost Migler and I recommend suspension of the provisions in Admissions and Registration Standard Practice Guide 3501/AA requiring minimum levels on college assessment examinations.

At this time, we believe it would be in the best interests of the College to step back and re-examine how we ensure that our students are appropriately prepared for the rigors of college level work and equipped with the tools necessary to succeed. These goals were the primary motivations for revising the standards and we should take additional steps to make sure we are on the right track.

Prior to making this recommendation, the Provost and I consulted with the Faculty Senate earlier this week. Although the Faculty Senate unanimously supported the change to standards that were made, most Senators understand the wisdom of pausing to further consider this issue at this critical time.

We recommend the suspension remain in effect for the 2013-2014 academic year. This would allow sufficient time for the new Chancellor to get up to speed and weigh in on this important issue. We also feel that the work on the Prep Academy should continue because it provides a valuable service to our students and offers one means of improving student preparation, regardless of the admissions standard.

We are hoping to discuss these recommendations with you at your working session on March 25. In addition, we want to share a number of valuable suggestions from Faculty Senate, including the enforcement of pre-requisites and expanding access to our Student Success classes.

Respectfully, Suzanne & Jerry