Higher education services started in Santa Cruz County in the late 1970‘s and 1980‘s with courses being taught at local high schools and community centers. The-Santa Cruz County Provisional Community College District was established in 2010.The Santa Cruz County Provisional Community College District originally held classes in the Historic County Courthouse and moved into the Santa Cruz Center on Grand Avenue and Mariposa in April 2013.
The Santa Cruz County Provisional Community College District is a “provisional” community college meaning they do not possess an accreditation. There are two “provisional” community college districts in Arizona, and by state law, they are not eligible to seek accreditation until they meet certain and legislated criteria. Thus, the college is fortunate to partner with a great organization, from Pima Community College, for credit courses to serve students within Santa Cruz County. Students will have the opportunity to transfer, complete certifications or degrees, and move on to universities if they choose.
The Santa Cruz Center was built as a hub and central location for learning and meeting throughout the community. Over the summer (within 3 months), the college has hosted over 5 summer programs for students, 20 local non–profit and community meetings, 2 graduation events, 6 Five-Week Professional Development Training Courses for a local industry, and 3 Professional Certification Trainings. “The goal of the center is to maintain that level of outreach, even as we grow student enrollment and services with Pima Community College. The Board of Governors has made a commitment to ensure the Santa Cruz Center remains a community college,” said Stella Perez Chief Executive Officer (CEO) and Executive Director for the Santa Cruz County Provisional Community College District (SCCPCCD).
The Santa Cruz Center services are unique in Santa Cruz County as they partner with a number of educational institutions, Pima Community College, and the UofA South. “We offer a variety of ESL courses, professional training courses, community education courses, as well as credit courses–so students can complete their associate degree on site, transfer to the UofA South to complete their baccalaureate, and even a Masters Degree—without having to leave Santa Cruz County,” said Perez.
The Santa Cruz Community College District is dedicated to improving the community by providing complete access to higher education. They offer the full mission of a community college with associate degree completion; academic transfer to the university for baccalaureate programs; workforce development training; developmental education; and continuing education and/or professional development. ..with full open-door access… unlike universities, no one can be turned away or excluded from the institution… there is a place for all and community colleges are truly democratic colleges.
The college’s primary customers are local high school graduates, who choose to stay in Santa Cruz County-for a variety of reasons, for example, they are working, juggling school part time or full-time, and choose to remain close to family. Many are first generation college students, and local community members who are seeking a higher education without having to commute to Tucson or Sierra Vista. Students have an opportunity to become comfortable with the demands of higher education in their first & second year.
“The options for internships, online learning, and apprenticeships are also available, however, if students have family obligations or needs that require them to be in Santa Cruz County—they can continue with their degree programs without interruption and complete their degree requirements—either face-to-face or online. We want to be a full-service learning center and educational ‘hub’ for the community,” said Perez.
Some of the college‘s accomplishments include a full partnership with the UofA South so students in Santa Cruz County are able to complete their associate degree, and transfer to the UofA South to complete their baccalaureate program without having to leave Santa Cruz County. This makes it easier for students not to incur great amounts of student debt while making it easier for them to move into the local workforce meeting local industry needs. The college has real models of these outcomes for students in education, criminal justice, and business. Students come to the Santa Cruz Center to see the SCC Staff as they have known these students since they were in elementary school. Another great accomplishment by the college is the number of students served, just in the past year, over 1,500 students registered for courses. Moving through this educational service transition, the college anticipates an even stronger opportunity for student enrollment, student outreach, while meeting community needs.
“The future plans for the SCCPCCD are to have a positive and long-standing relationship with Pima Community College by building up enrollment and workforce programs to new heights here at the Santa Cruz Center. We then see students graduating from PCC and enrolling in baccalaureate programs at the UofA South –also right here at the Santa Cruz Center. We are planning on expanding the number of workforce development programs that have a great need such as HVAC, logistics, and CDL (trucking) for our immediate transportation, produce industry, and customs related business development,” said Stella Perez.