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, fewer than 40% of community college students earn a degree or certificate within six years of enrolling.footnote1 At Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, the student completion rate is 16%, far lower than the national average. The coronavirus has exacerbated the challenge. “Because of 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 has embarked on a comprehensive program to help students turn an affordable education into an engaging career.
Through grants that are part of Bank of America’s $1.25 billion, five-year commitment to advance racial equality and economic opportunity, 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 45% 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 have been 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 a possible apprenticeship in one of the PimaFastTrack fields: advanced industrial technology, automotive technology, building and construction technologies, cyber security/IT and emergency medical technician. 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.