Scottsdale Community College is a model of quality higher education

Scottsdale Community College — the home of your Fighting Artichokes — in large part owes its very existence to Scottsdale business leaders who worked together in the late 1960s to ensure the city had its own community college.

Jan Gehler

Jan Gehler

This academic year, SCC is celebrating 45 years of excellence and the future is bright. Nationally and locally, SCC is being noticed for much more than having an unusual mascot.

For the third consecutive time, SCC is among only 150 community colleges to be eligible for the biennial $1 million Aspen Prize for Community College Excellence, which will be awarded in 2017. The Aspen Institute uses available data to winnow down from a pool of more than 1,000 community colleges to determine the 150 eligible institutions. It is a prestigious distinction, and we look forward to moving on to the next round of the application process.

Recently, SCC was named the sixth best community college in the country based on the quality of its educational offerings and its overall costs to attend. This recognition comes from SmartAsset, a personal-financial advice platform, that looked at 565 public two-year colleges and ranked them based on graduation and transfer rates, in-state tuition, student-teacher ratio and graduates’ average starting salary compared with the overall cost of attending the institution.
Also, we are proud to hold the distinction of being the first community college to be named a Veterans Supportive Campus by Arizona Veterans Affairs.

SCC is one of 10 Maricopa Community Colleges and a Corporate College, with each institution bringing this type of nationally recognized quality, affordability and economic impact to the communities we serve. We play an important role in bridging the path from high school to a four-year institution and/or career, even though many students come to us with academic deficiencies.

The most recent data indicates that 76 percent (up from 67 percent last year) of our incoming students are required to take at least one developmental education course. SCC continues to play a leadership role in reinventing developmental education to give students the most efficient and effective path forward. Our success rates for developmental reading went from 65 percent in Fall 2012 to 80 percent in Fall 2014, meaning more students are advancing to college-level courses faster.

And, yet, year after year the community colleges too often are missing from the conversations, discussions and negotiations around financial support of education in Arizona.

This has not always been the case. In the late 1960s, the Scottsdale Town Enrichment Program (STEP) was formed to champion a series of citizen-driven committees charged with defining Scottsdale’s future. STEP committees studied and made recommendations on such ventures as building a civic center and municipal airport, turning Indian Bend Wash into a series of parks, and establishing a community college.

Paul Messinger, a Scottsdale business leader, was tapped to chair the community college committee. The committee was relentless for more than two years, with members speaking at every meeting of the Maricopa Community Colleges Governing Board in favor of establishing SCC, until the proposed college was approved.

In late 1969, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community leaders agreed to lease 160 acres to the Maricopa County Community College District. With that partnership, SCC has the proud distinction of being the only public community college located on tribal land.

The rest is history, as they say, but I and everyone at SCC are forever grateful to the steadfast and headstrong leaders who saw the need for a strong community college in Scottsdale and didn’t stop until they made it happen. We look forward to continuing that legacy of support and working with our partners throughout Scottsdale to champion the quality education and economic impact of SCC. There are many ways to support SCC’s continued success:

  • Give to our general scholarship fund. Some 70 percent of our students attend school part time, because they simply can’t afford more courses and/or are working full or part time while attending school;
  • Attend our performing arts or athletic events. Our students work hard, and there’s nothing quite like performing or playing before a packed house;
  • Join one of our 30-plus Community Advisory Councils and bring your career expertise and knowledge to the table;
  • Enroll yourself or encourage family and friends to enroll. At $84 per credit hour, you can’t beat the value, and students who earn an associate degree do better when they transfer to a four-year institution;
  • Ask your representatives to keep community colleges in the state budget conversations. Currently, there is zero state funding to the Maricopa Community Colleges, and that is something we must change.

Read more about your community college at scottsdalecc.edu. Go Chokes!

Editor’s note: Dr. Jan Gehler is the Scottsdale Community College president

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