Tucson CitizenTucson Citizen

Pima to tackle Downtown Campus dropout rate

Pima Community College’s Downtown Campus is about to be $2.86 million richer.

Pending approval by PCC’s Board of Governors, the Downtown Campus will get a five-year, U.S. Department of Education grant to initiate a campuswide curriculum redesign and faculty training program.

The Board of Governors is expected to approve the spending plan for the grant at its 7 p.m. Wednesday meeting at district headquarters, 4905 E. Broadway.

The Downtown Campus, on Stone Avenue just north of Speedway Boulevard, serves more than 9,000 students each semester and has a 57 percent year-to-year attrition rate, said David Irwin, a PCC spokesman.

PCC administrators believe the high turnover is caused in part by the Downtown Campus’ unique demographic: 72 percent of the students are under 29 and 30 percent are Hispanic.

The Hispanic enrollment is 34 percent districtwide, according to PCC’s Student Enrollment report.

“We know something needs to be done because they aren’t succeeding that well with standard (methods) of classroom instruction on this campus,” Irwin said of the low year-to-year retention rate. “The traditional classroom setting is not this group’s forte.”

The grant will allow the campus, over five years, to revamp the curriculum and offer intensive teacher training to “give us a wider range of teaching styles and learning options for the students of this campus, not just the traditional lecture,” Irwin said.

The spending plan for the grant includes training for use of SmartBoards, which are interactive, chalk-board sized white-boards that instructors use to access the Internet.

Other issues to be discussed at the meeting are a report by Chancellor Roy Flores about the outcomes of the district’s 2006-2008 College Plan, a grant proposal that would provide education to women in transitional housing and a new work force development program at the Arizona State Prison Complex-Tucson and the Federal Correctional Complex-Tucson.

The board also will have a discussion-only meeting at 1 p.m. Wednesday when Flores will give an update on the Higher Education Act and the college’s accreditation process.

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