By NICHOLAS TRUJILLO
Santa Cruz County has the lowest socioeconomic standing in Arizona, yet it has the highest high school graduation rate in Southern Arizona.
The name doesn’t ring a bell for many students north of Nogales city, but it’s on the radar for Pima Community College.
“We have some of the most beautiful aspects, like the highest graduation rate for high schools; the graduation for Nogales High School is 96 percent and for Rio Rico High School its 89 percent,” Executive Director Stella Perez said. “That’s why this community cares for each other. Everyone knows each other and they look out for each other.”
After sanctions were removed from Pima in 2015, it started to focus on changes within its own world. Now that these changes have come to fruition, Pima is looking to broaden its horizons, starting with buying property for potential Centers of Excellence, Pima is looking to help its small-town friend Santa Cruz County Provisional Community College get accredited.
“Unlike universities, community colleges have an open door policy, we never turn anyone away,” Perez said. “Universities will say ‘You can’t attend based on your scores.’ A community college, based on your scores, will guide you to the right program; They are the open door to higher education.”
The SCCPCC is one of the only colleges that is close to the border. The next college that’s north is about an hour drive to Tucson. This is a problem, because SCCPCC isn’t accredited.
The problem with that is, the other school in the Nogales area is Cochise Community College, which drives the students away from going to SCCPCC.
Not being accredited isn’t a big problem, however, when it comes to having classes at the provisional college.
“Students are able to pursue courses without restriction, a lot of the students have families and it really makes it hard for them to get an education,” Perez said. “So instead of driving all the way to Tucson, they can take them right here.”
The value of the degree or certificate will be the same as taking one here at PCC.
SCCPCC started in ’99 after legislation had passed to approve a community college in Santa Cruz.
As school went on in the border town, accreditation was, and still is, a goal that has yet to be reached. However, a 2010 vote approved a tax rate that would provide funding for the college.
After that, a Board of Trustees developed a strategic plan, “staff and faculty were hired and their dreams came to fruition in 2012 with the opening of the current facility,” according to the Santa Cruz Website.
This was all done while the classes were being held at a courthouse since 1999.
That changed, however, in 2013 when the Santa Cruz Center moved into a building on Grand Avenue and Mariposa Road.