PC Awarded Multi-Million-Dollar Grant

Monday, September 14, 2020
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PHOENIX, September 14, 2020 – Phoenix College (PC) has been awarded $2,964,968 by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) to accomplish bold, systemic improvements over the next five years. The goal is to significantly increase student retention, completion and grow the number of students who transfer to universities. 

As a designated Hispanic-Serving Institution, PC has a Hispanic enrollment of 54 percent. About 80 percent of the students are low-income and/or first-generation. Students are often academically deficient - lacking skills in mathematics, English and reading. They also struggle with financial resources and have limited support networks to help them when facing the typical challenges and obstacles higher education brings. 

“So many of our students face challenges beyond the academic environment,” said Phoenix College President Dr. Larry Johnson. “Just one of our strategic priorities is to bring into sharp focus the challenges and obstacles students face, thereby, meeting the students where they are on their journey and helping them conquer and rise above.”

Consequently, PC’s new five-year project is designed to close those achievement gaps for at-risk and non-traditional students. A central feature of the new grant is to increase Work-Based Experiences (WBE) for the majority of PC students by 10 percent each year. 

“Our vision is that all students will have access to and participate in at least one Work-Based Experience while attending PC,” said Nichole Spencer, STEAM Coordinator at PC. “We will be able to work with current and new industry partners to increase WBE opportunities for students. We will also be able to determine industry and employer needs and integrate those needs back into curriculum, programs and activities.” 

According to Maria Reyes, Dean of Industry and Public Service, this grant award is critical to provide the resources to expand the WBE’s team and efforts. “PC has laid an important foundation for the WBE efforts working to embed a culture of career development for all students. These resources will provide the next level of implementation.”

A significant initiative in the project is to establish, in partnership with the University of Arizona, a Math, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) Transfer Prep program in Arizona. MESA creates an on-campus peer community to reinforce and support academic achievement while providing educational assistance and transfer guidance. At other participating community colleges, MESA students are more likely to persist, transfer to a university, and earn a STEM-related bachelor’s degree than other under-represented students pursuing STEM studies at those colleges. 

“We are excited about this opportunity to support success for students traditionally underrepresented in the STEM fields through the MESA program,” said Frank Marfai, Mathematics faculty. “MESA is one of the oldest STEM programs in the nation and was specifically founded with diversity, equity and access in mind. It has had a track record of success in both student academic achievement and university transfer in the ten states it has been implemented. We will be the first community college in Arizona to have a MESA Transfer Prep and we are honored to have been selected.”

Complementing the WBE initiative and the MESA program is a set of academic and non-instructional support solutions to enhance remote learning support as well as integrate reading and writing curriculum. Sam Crandall, Instructional Services Manager at PC, said, “By providing individualized and integrated student support in the online environment, we will mitigate barriers to academic achievement, leading to higher completion rates and greater persistence.” 

Embedded in the project is the college’s ability for self-assessment. PC will evaluate its capacity to deliver equity-minded practices through all student-facing programs and service areas and at all points along the student’s journey at PC. Non-traditional students will particularly benefit from these strategies. 

Finally, the project will also support institution-wide training and professional development for faculty and staff to become proficient with data-driven practices. That means the college will be able to make even better operational decisions while also demonstrating how each employee impacts student learning, success and completion.

This is the fourth time PC has been awarded this grant since 2000. This new project builds upon gains PC has made through other, recent, multi-million dollar grants from both DOE and the National Science Foundation. These past projects have laid the foundation for undergraduate research-driven, work-based learning; and produced significant outcomes in the development of open educational resources and student success in developmental education. 

As this funding announcement lands the week before PC prepares to celebrate its 100-year anniversary, it is clear that for PC and the community it serves, the best is truly yet to come.


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For media inquiries please contact Erika Keenan, Marketing Manager of Phoenix College. Erika.Keenan@phoenixcollege.edu


Phoenix College is one of the 10 colleges in the Maricopa County Community College District, one of the largest community college districts in the nation. Established in 1920, PC offers academic courses leading to associate degrees, university transfer, certificates and short-term job training. The college will be celebrating its centennial in 2020 with events, high-profile speakers, performances and more. 

The Maricopa County Community College District (MCCCD) is an EEO/AA institution and an equal opportunity employer of protected veterans and individuals with disabilities. All qualified applicants will receive consideration for employment without regard to race, color, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, or national origin. A lack of English language skills will not be a barrier to admission and participation in the career and technical education programs of the District.

The Maricopa County Community College District does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, disability or age in its programs or activities. For Title IX/504 concerns, call the following number to reach the appointed coordinator:  (480) 731-8499. For additional information, as well as a listing of all coordinators within the Maricopa College system, http://www.maricopa.edu/non-discrimination.