Winter classes frozen

By ANDREW PAXTON

Students hoping to enroll in classes at Pima Community College during the holiday break will find nothing but coal in their academic stockings this winter.

The decision not to hold winter classes was made during a PCC governing board meeting in May 2013.

The move wasn’t formally announced on Pima’s website until more than a year later, on Oct. 6.

Brigid Murphy, vice president of instruction at Downtown Campus, was one Pima administrator who analyzed winter classes after concerns surfaced regarding the effectiveness and efficiency.

Murphy said the college looked at success rates during winter classes and found that a large number of students were not completing the courses, or not earning credit.

“If students took a class during the regular session and didn’t succeed, and are then trying to make it up during the winter, they probably aren’t going to make it through,” she said.

Another factor in eliminating winter classes was a decline in enrollment, Murphy said.

In 2011, 1,092 students were enrolled in winter classes after the drop deadline.

By comparison, 549 were enrolled in winter courses by the end of the 2013 winter session. More than half of the 33 courses were only available online.

“So many of the winter classes were offered online, so we have a campus that’s open but serving very few students,” Murphy said.

Keeping a campus open requires support staff, security and other employees as well as instructors.

Murphy said it didn’t make sense financially, for so few face-to-face classes.

“We have to make sure we are making smart financial decisions and doing what makes the most sense,” she said.

Murphy said Pima considered holding only online classes when the fate of winter courses was being determined.

However, the college ultimately decided to eliminate the winter intersession altogether.

If there is sufficient demand in the future, Murphy said winter classes could be added back to the calendar.

“We just have to be smart about what we offer,” she said. “For example, maybe offer more art classes instead of developmental education courses.”

Murphy conceded that high turnover in Pima’s provost office may have led to the delay in formally announcing the end of winter classes.

PCC has had five provosts since the idea to drop winter classes was first discussed several years ago.

“The communication plan may not have been as good as it would have been if the provost hadn’t kept changing,” she said.

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