Four Arizona Community Colleges have been named finalists in the rigorous Bellwether College Consortium annual awards, representing all three categories:

Pima Community College (Instructional Programs & Services)
o    “Developmental Education Restructuring” – For several years, Pima Community College worked to comprehensively improve its Developmental Education program. In 2014 the college hired a Dean of Developmental Education who was tasked with creating teams to revise placement processes, improve curriculum and student support, and undertake other initiatives to improve gateway access and completion.

Pima Community College (Planning, Governance & Finance)
o    “Earn to Learn” – Pima is the first community college in the U.S. to partner with Earn to Learn, a non-profit which offers need-based scholarships designed to reduce student reliance on loans and educational debt. The matching-funds program rewards current and future Pima students who save at least $500 with scholarships up to $4,000 per academic year. Scholarship recipients receive $8 for every $1 they save, as well as training on how to budget, set up a savings account, and make smart financial decisions. The first PCC cohort has 54 students. Beginning Fall Semester 2020, the Earn to Learn program will require future applicants to be Pima Community College students before transferring to a university.

Arizona Western College (Planning, Governance & Finance)
o    “Strategic Planning: Creating a College-Going Culture for First Generation Students” – Nearly 7 in 10 AWC students are the first in their family to attend college. AWC has collaborated with the community to develop a sweeping Strategic Plan that addresses how First Gen students enter college, persist, and succeed. Emerging objectives that address this need include Open Educational Resources (No and low-cost course materials), Guided Pathways, Centralized Scheduling, and Guiding Principles of Learning.

South Mountain Community College (Planning, Governance & Finance)
o    “Creating a Legacy of Educational Success” – South Mountain Community College recognized that a comprehensive plan was necessary to address a growing default rate and to provide critical debt management and personal finance skills that would enhance the success of students while in school and after graduation. As a result of implementing the comprehensive plan, the college’s student loan cohort default rate has dropped precipitously.

Central Arizona College (Workforce Development)
o    “Education at the Speed of Industry” – The partnership between Sundt Construction and Central Arizona College began in the spring of 2016, when Sundt Construction approached CAC to explore apprenticeship opportunities to meet the growing needs of commercial construction. CAC administrators worked with this global construction partner to develop wildly successful apprenticeship programs that drew 104 students in 2017-2018 and 196 in 2018-2019. This fall, the program reported 328 students enrolled. This is the fastest growing program at CAC.

Teams from each of the four colleges will be among the 30 presentations the first week in February at a meeting in San Antonio during the 26th annual event.

The Bellwether Award recognizes innovation and results-driven, cutting-edge community college programs that are worthy of replication. More information is available at

About The Arizona Community Colleges:
With 10 college districts and nearly 300,000 students, the Arizona Community Colleges are the backbone of Arizona’s higher educational system, driving the economic engine and delivering an educated citizenry to meet the most in-demand jobs of today and the complexities of tomorrow. Connected through shared goals of access and completion, Arizona community colleges deliver a high-quality, low-cost education, prepare students of all ages across the state to be career-ready and enable students for pathways to universities.