Helios Education Foundation, Pima Community College Foundation, the Arizona Community Foundation and the Office of the Governor have awarded a $1,350,000 grant to create the Arizona Center for Student Success.
The Center’s role is meant to organize ten of Arizona’s community college districts around the common goal of improving student persistence and completion for traditionally underserved students.
“The Arizona Center for Student Success…will help boost the number of Arizona students who complete certificates and associate degree programs across the state. By helping traditionally underserved students, the new center will further Arizona’s efforts to develop a skilled workforce ready to meet the needs of employers and succeed in high-demand jobs,” Arizona Governor Doug Ducey (R-AZ) said.
The Center will be joining the national Student Success Center Network, managed by Jobs for the Future, Inc. (JFF), a national nonprofit that “drives transformation in the American labor market through system disruption.”
According to Glenn Wike, director, strategy & public policy at the Arizona Community Foundation, the Arizona Center for Student Success represents an important step forward.
“Arizona’s network of community colleges play a critical role in this effort and in providing a quality education to our diverse student population. The center will enhance the strength of the community colleges by aligning current and future initiatives to advance student retention and success rates,” he said.
Creating centers is an emerging trend in the national college completion movement, which helps states void of a strong centralized tradition of community college governances align with a common goal, according to JFF.
With more than 78 percent of students who transfer to a public university with an associate degree going on to earn a bachelor’s degree within six years, Arizona community colleges provide the most efficient pathway to a four-year college or university, JFF reports.
It will also help the state with the Achieve60AZ goal.
“The Arizona Center for Student Success will be instrumental in helping reach Arizona’s postsecondary attainment goal. It directly aligns with the vision of Achieve60AZ, which is to have a diverse, well-educated, highly-skilled workforce in our state,” Vince Yanez, senior vice president, Arizona Community Engagement, said in a statement. “Helios is pleased to help support the efforts to identify and implement proven strategies to increase student success and degree completion.”
“As a strong supporter of the Achieve60AZ initiative, it was clear to us that the creation of the center would significantly enhance efforts to increase college and career readiness among Arizona’s student population,” Wike said. “The collaborative approach the community colleges have elected to take to improve student learning exemplifies the sort of partnership and innovation necessary to achieve the attainment goal and prepare our future workforce.”
Arizona’s community colleges serve nearly twice as many students as Arizona public universities and offer hundreds of career-ready certificates and associate degree programs.
The Center will help community colleges redesign how students choose, enter, navigate and complete these programs. According to JFF, this means creating a guided pathway approach instead of a cafeteria model that most colleges use.
“Students often have difficulty navigating choices and end up making poor decisions about what program to enter, what courses to take, and when to seek help,” stated Dr. Jackie Elliot, president and CEO of Central Arizona College. “The Arizona Center for Student Success will help us implement guided pathways and give students what they need to make more informed choices.”