PCC has recently joined the LA County Promises That Count Initiative, which will unite other LA County community colleges with Promise programs, in order to learn from one another and strengthen their benefits for students.
Last year, the campus was introduced to the PCC Promise, which allows for recent graduates from high schools in PCC’s district to have their first year of college be free. However, the program mostly focused on the economics of the situation, rather than taking into account the other circumstances that can bar some students from finishing their degrees. PCC’s involvement in this initiative seeks to bridge that gap for students, according to PCC spokesman Alex Boekelheide.
“A lot of promise programs are built that way; they’re designed to get people in the door, but not many of them then support students further down the road,” he said. “What we’re hoping this will do…is on the completion side, so ‘What are colleges doing to drive people to finish their degrees?’”
The initiative would let participating community colleges collaborate with each other, in order to help improve their individual promise programs and possibly begin new programs relating to student services. Each school also gets funding, ranging from $30,000 to $50,000.
“Folks on our side, administrators and student services, implement some pilot programs here,” said Boekelheide. “It’s funding to be able to talk to the other Promises That Count group of schools. We’ll basically be able to share ideas, bounce stuff off each other and see what other [schools] are doing.”
The PCC Promise program will then grow to accommodate students’ personal situations that can impede their educational goals, rather than paying for their classes only. Working with other community colleges to enhance their individual promise programs allows the college to go beyond their limits and have more ideas to look into, said Javier Carbajal-Ramos, PCC’s assistant director of Educational Partnerships and Programs.
“Now it’s not one school, it’s almost every school [that] is going to be getting involved,” he said. “So whenever one school begins the process of developing something and they do it independently, it’s always going to stay in-house and not going to grow unless they start branching out.”
Because many schools are involved in this initiative, it will give them more of a push to start doing the work to help students, according to Carbajal-Ramos. Helping students is the priority of the initiative, as stated by Dr. Cynthia Olivo, Vice President of Student Services.
“The expectation is we’re going to create guidance, not only helping students pay for school but helping them complete their goals,” said Olivo.
As was indicated when the PCC Promise was first introduced, this initiative with other schools will drive PCC to help first-year students that may not qualify for financial aid or other programs that can ease them into academic life. This may include using the funding to implement new pilot programs on campus, as suggested by Boekelheide, but nonetheless, still working to help students get over the first year hurdle.
“We currently have something like the PCC Pathways program but for every student that might not be an option,” said Carbajal-Ramos. “But when it comes to programs that might help every student, specifically when it comes to financial aid, it benefits them … not only paying for tuition but paying for support services.”
Now that the initiative is in place and colleges can collaborate, be it through sharing ideas or trial and error programs, the main focus will be to get students to achieve their academic goals despite personal obstacles.
“The Promises that Count initiative, it’s not just a promise that will get [students] through the door,” said Olivo. “It will get them across the finish line.”