NW college's enrollment nears 5,500
Randy Metcalf/The Explorer, Phouvieng Katz pours over her pile of papers, packets and books in the library at Pima Community College's Northwest campus Monday morning. She hopes to one day become a nurse.

When the Northwest Campus of Pima Community College opened in the fall of 2003, “we were expecting 1,500 students,” Northwest president Dr. Sylvia Lee said.

More than 3,000 enrolled.

Five years later, the Northwest Campus is “getting close to 5,500 students,” Lee said, and growing.

“I don’t think we had any idea the growth we’d see,” said Lee, the campus’ first and only president.

Today, the Northwest Campus on Shannon Road north of Ina is essentially filled up. It has 28 classrooms, and they’re booked all week long, at night and on the weekends.

“We have to be creative in the way we schedule,” said division dean Pat Houston, going so far as to contemplate 6 a.m. classes for people to attend before they go to work. “We provide the coffee,” Houston quipped.

“We know there is a tremendous need,” Lee said.

Online classes are “becoming more popular,” up 16 percent system-wide. Enrollment in weekday, traditionally delivered courses in the Pima Community College system “has been stagnant,” according to Karen Renee Lutrick, acting marketing and public relations coordinator. “It is clear that the students we serve are looking for alternative time slots and delivery systems,” she said.

Accelerated four-week and eight-week weekend classes have grown in popularity. They range from caregiving and history to Spanish and writing.

Northwest’s Express Degree class schedule offers students once-a-week, lengthy Wednesday night and Friday morning courses that can lead to an associate’s degree in two years.

“A lot of our growth at this campus is non-traditional,” Lee said.

The Northwest Campus is also doing more teaching in the community and off-campus, giving courses at the Northwest Medical Center, Marana Middle School and the Oro Valley Library.

“We are offering classes right in the heart of town,” Lee said. “We need to be right where they are.”

More growth may be coming.

“When the economy goes bad, people go back to school,” Lee said. “You have to be flexible. At any minute now, if there’s a big layoff, or a big issue where you’ve got to react, you have to be nimble. It’s really being ready for an influx of enrollment.”

“A big part of our job is to keep learning right alongside the community,” Houston said. College officials meet with business and industry leaders regularly, asking “how can we help?”

“Outreach is what we’re supposed to do,” Lee said. “We look at it as give and take.” While the Northwest Campus doesn’t have athletics and fine arts programs, “we are a comprehensive community college, and the campus is a comprehensive campus,” Lee said.

“We believe we do an excellent job with individuals” looking to start their college careers, then transfer. “About 40 percent want to transfer to a four-year college or university,” Lee said.

Others simply want to improve their skills for the dynamic working world.

“One misperception is that everyone who comes to college wants a degree,” Houston said. “A number want to come learn new skills.”

Campus expansion “would be great,” Lee said, but “it’s a difficult time for everyone.” If there were donors, “we’d put their name on the building.”

PCC Northwest at a glance

Facts about the Northwest Campus of Pima Community College.

It derives:

• more than 40 percent of its funds from property taxes;

• about 18 percent from tuition;

• about 15 percent from contracts, and grants;

• almost 11 percent from state sources;

• 13 percent from other sources.

In fall 2007:

• 60 percent of students were women;

• 20 percent were Hispanic;

• 95 percent were from Pima County;

• 64 percent were part-time;

• 69 percent were under the age of 30;

The campus has:

• 41 full-time faculty;

• 150 part-time or “adjunct” faculty;

• 70 staff members;

• an annual budget of just over $7 million.

The Northwest population is the youngest among the Pima campuses, with an average age of 25.

Dual enrollment for high school students seeking additional college credit is the highest within the Pima system, reaching 16 percent of total enrollment.

Marana High School alone has more than 400 dual enrollment students.

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