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Jan 9, 2013 6:07 PM by Danielle Lerner

Is Pima Community College's admission test exclusionary?

TUCSON - Wednesday night one local group will continue it's fight against new admissions standards at Pima Community College.

As of last March, incoming students need to have a high school diploma or GED, and pass an admissions test.

The Pima Open Admissions Coalition says the new requirements exclude those in the community who need PCC the most.

For Wednesday's board meeting, they are bringing in an expert form the National Fair Test Organization. He claims the college is misusing a placement test as it's admissions test.

Incoming students have to take assessment tests in math, reading and writing. Members of the Pima Open Admissions Coalition say the college is using these assessments to decide which students are accepted and which ones are not, when they should only be filtering students into classes that meet their skill levels.

"We're saying to a person, 'well sorry, you've got to work in that low level job for the rest of your life, there's no way for you to improve,' we think that's a disservice, I don't want to live in a community where we say that to people," said the Coalition's Founder Phil Lopes.

Pima Community College says that is not the case at all. It is true applicants must perform at a seventh grade level or above on those assessments to be admitted, but there are resources in place to help those who do not. The college offers a free prep academy to help interested students get up to speed. A statement from the college goes on to say:

"Pima Community College has always been open to everyone in our community. Nothing has changed. The College does not use tests of any kind to determine admission....The revisions to Pima's registration and placement standards were motivated by a desire to help ensure the success of our students. The revisions were supported by College faculty and implemented after much study and data analysis."

You can get a closer look at the sample tests here.

This comes as the college prepares for next week's visit from The Higher Learning Commission. The team will be looking into some issues related to governance, administration and human resources, raised by community members last year.

Here is the college's full statement:

"Pima Community College has always been open to everyone in our community. Nothing has changed. The College does not use tests of any kind to determine admission.

Pima recently revised its registration and placement standards in an effort to confront a problem that besets numerous institutions of higher learning: the problem of underprepared students. For these students - students who are not ready for the rigors of college-level work - their experience at Pima can be very frustrating. They drop out, disappointed and in debt. Few graduate.

The revisions to Pima's registration and placement standards were motivated by a desire to help ensure the success of our students. The revisions were supported by College faculty and implemented after much study and data analysis.

Pima uses nationally accepted tests to evaluate students' skill levels in reading, writing and mathematics, and to place students in appropriate courses. Students whose test scores indicate that they are not ready for college-level work may be classified as degree-seeking if they can show passage of Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards, commonly known as the AIMS test, which is required to receive a high school diploma in Arizona.

Students who score at the appropriate level in reading and writing assessments, but not in math, will be admitted to the college as degree-seeking students. They will, however, be restricted from taking any math course or course with a math prerequisite until they pass the mathematics assessment. Students may also demonstrate competency be providing proof of course-work completion at another post-secondary institution or by documenting their attainment of a post-secondary degree or certificate.

Students who do not score at the appropriate level are encouraged to enroll in our Prep Academy, a noncredit, self-paced, flexible program that allows students to improve their reading, writing and mathematics skills. The Academy is offered at no cost and its creation was spearheaded by PCC faculty.

Although the new standards and the Academy have been in place since last year, early indications are that they are enabling students to enter the degree-seeking world more quickly. A status report is expected at the Board's February meeting."

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