Becky Pallack, Arizona Daily Star, Sept. 24, 2009
Pima Community College plans to pay Hispanic men to stay in school because their graduation rates are so low.
Under a new program, called Gain, 500 men will be paid $1,500 each for successfully completing classes and utilizing some support services.
Three private foundations are funding the program. Public tax money won’t be used.
The idea is to turn around low retention and graduation rates among low-income Hispanic men, said Lorraine Morales, assistant vice chancellor.
Only 11 percent of Hispanic men who enroll at PCC finish their degree program within three years. The overall graduation rate is 23 percent. Another 8 percent in each group transfer to other Arizona colleges.
MDRC, a New York-based nonprofit research company, is studying similar programs at community colleges in New York, Ohio, New Mexico and California. It invited PCC to participate and brought in two private funders: the Phoenix-based Helios Education Foundation and the Detroit-based Kresge Foundation.
Students who volunteer for the Gain program will get $150 when they enroll in classes. They’ll get another $150 mid-semester if they’ve stayed in school and used some support services, such as program orientations, tutoring, career counseling or time management and financial literacy workshops.
When they pass their classes, they’ll receive the $1,200 balance.
When it comes to low graduation rates, part of the problem lies in preparation, said Morales, assistant PCC vice chancellor .
“This particular population doesn’t really have a solid understanding of what the requirements are to be a college student,” she said.
Another part of the problem is cultural, she said.”A lot of the time they’re hesitant to ask for help because the feeling is they should be able to take care of it themselves,” Morales said.
Valenzuela agreed. “Asking for help, from a man’s point of view, is degrading,” he said, speaking generally.
DID YOU KNOW
PCC’s student body is 31 percent Hispanic.
Pima Community College has been a Hispanic-Serving Institution since 1999. The U.S. Department of Education designation makes PCC eligible for Title V grant funds for improving academic outcomes for Hispanic and low-income students.
PCC has received $8 million since 2006.