GUEST COMMENT: FOR BETTER OR WORSE AT PIMA COLLEGEby Lyn Olsen on Dec. 16, 2012, under Education
“There is a misconception in the higher education world that high standards and completion are naturally at war with one another, that you can’t do both” “Research findings contradict that. Successful institutions set high standards and then support students to reach them.”.
-Washington Monthly article about the top US Community Colleges
What has brought us to this point, where schools no longer believe that they can both teach well and still have students complete and graduate? Are our schools this out-of-touch with their students or do they think their students incapable of succeeding?
2010’s & 2012’s #1 and 2011’s #2 community college in the USA is the St. Paul Community College of MN (serving Minneapolis/St Paul MN) and Pima Community College (PCC) doesn’t even place in the top 100, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
The 2012 operating budget at St. Paul is $ 44M/year; PCC’s budget comes in at a little over $ 300 million.
The Minneapolis/St Paul Greater Metro Area’s (Twin Cities) population is a little bit over 3 million; Greater Tucson Metro’s is just under 1 million.
At PCC, +80% of our instructors are part-time. At St. Paul, only 60% are part-time. St. Paul’s Admin employees total 15; PCC has roughly 40+.
According to the USDoE, the higher the percentage of full-time instructors, the higher the academic standards. Conversely, the higher the number of part-timers, the cheaper the operating costs.
Comparative studies show that a major part of St. Paul’s exceptional academic achievement record has to do with the high level of personal contact between students with faculty and staff members. Their focus is student-centric and accessibility. It is more than clearly obvious that PCC’s de facto policies are quite the reverse.
PCC’s consistent policy of “the more the merrier”/”bigger is better” education is flawed from more than an educational point of view. It also consistently increases operating costs. St. Paul’s 2013 budget is less than it was in 2010. That’s not the case at PCC. And PCC constantly cries out for more money.
What in the heck does PCC do with its money? It certainly doesn’t invest in academic excellence, nor in the quality of its faculty members. Nowhere is this more clearly demonstrated than in the hiring practices at PCC where less qualified people, some who have very poor history of success, have been hired over other very highly qualified applicants who have demonstrated great successes in their work. Evidence of this lack of qualifications are demonstrated in the ever-decreasing enrollment at PCC and the growing number of students, employees, and community members who feel alienated from what was once their college. Such arms-length distances between “the serving” and” the served”, as seen at PCC, may have a lot to do with the lack of achievement and success of our students in either real or even hypothetical terms. Perhaps over the doorways of our schools it should read, “Here’s looking down at ya’.”