Many students enrolled in a community college have a pathway to economic mobility upon graduation. But for the large number of students who don’t graduate, career success can be a challenge. Nationwide, less than a third of first-time, full-time community college students earn an associate degree within three years.footnote1 At Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, the student graduation rate is an even lower 18%. The challenge was exacerbated during the pandemic. “Many of our students have faced simultaneous medical, family, housing and jobs challenges,” says Pima Community College Chancellor Lee Lambert. “For them, going to school is not a possibility.” So the college embarked on a comprehensive program to help students turn an affordable education into an engaging career, one that has continued even after the public health crisis.
Pima Community College recently launched a jobs initiative, PimaFastTrack, so that southern Arizona’s learners can receive the skills needed to successfully enter and grow in the workforce. With 47% of its student population identifying as Hispanic-Latino, Pima Community College is a long-time Hispanic-serving institution (HSI). The PimaFastTrack program focuses on students of color, who were disproportionately affected by the pandemic-led economic downturn. “Our commitment to providing access to education for all befits a school with a majority-minority enrollment,” says Lambert. “Through initiatives such as PimaFastTrack, we can give everyone the opportunity to achieve economic equity through a career that pays a family-sustaining wage.”
To ensure that students are prepared for promising careers, the program partners with local employers to identify the skills needed for in-demand jobs and creates a clearly defined pathway for students to secure a position in the surrounding community. This includes coursework and a possible apprenticeship in one of the PimaFastTrack fields, such as automated industrial technology, automotive technology, building trades and safety, computer science/IT and emergency medical services. By giving students access to emerging opportunities in the area’s business and industry sectors, Pima Community College’s initiative enables students and graduates to have a positive impact on their futures and their communities.
Pima Community College, along with 20 other community colleges, historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and HSIs, has been granted $1 million to implement this program for student success. Learn more about Bank of America’s partnerships with higher learning institutions here.
The support for Pima Community College is an example of Bank of America’s commitment to help advance racial equality and economic opportunity in local neighborhoods around the country. From entrepreneur funding and expanding home ownership to professional skills training and healthcare access, Bank of America continues to partner with innovative leaders to help communities implement solutions to society’s biggest challenges.