[Web Producer's note: We were sent this guest opinion from Pima Community College on the subject of National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week. Since it didn't make the print edition's deadline, we thought we'd run it on the blog.]
This week is National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week—an event which for the most part goes unnoticed every year except by a handful of people who know firsthand the quiet but valuable contribution adult educators make in the lives of their students and our community.
Don’t doubt the importance of these educators. We need them now more than ever, as a host of sobering statistics show.
Almost half of the 200 million adults in the country age 25 or older function below a high school reading level, according to the National Assessment of Adult Literacy. Thirty percent of all high school students and one half of minorities drop out of high school before graduating.
The economic hardships confronted by these individuals are apparent in our own community. A Pima County resident with a high school diploma or GED earns about $9,000 more per year than one without. Nationally in 2008, an adult lacking a high school credential earned $24,800 annually, compared to $33,800 for an adult with a credential. That’s a significant difference in income for a family struggling to make ends meet, especially in these challenging times.
Moreover, for many, earning a high school credential is a stepping stone to further educational achievement, and higher income. Adults who attend a community college or university, but do not earn a degree, still earn 17 percent more than those with only a high school credential.
As the economy struggles to rebound, PCC Adult Education continues to play a critical role in the community. PCC is a recognized leader in Arizona and the nation in its aggressive efforts to support adult education and family literacy.
PCC’s efforts ensure that the many who fail to complete high school will seek out a second chance and eventually find their way here. They know we are a precious resource for adults who want to complete their high school education, improve their English, get and retain a job, advance to a community college training program or help their own children succeed in school.
These programs often occur in the evening and in low-income communities, in what I call the invisible schools. Many of our friends and neighbors don’t even know they exist.
But make no mistake, these schools and their students are not invisible at Pima Community College. From the staff and instructors all the way up to the college administration, we are acutely aware of the extraordinary impact our adult education programs can have. And we back this commitment up.
When the Arizona Legislature chose not to fund adult education in 2009, PCC’s Board of Governors and Chancellor Roy Flores quickly decided to fill the financial gap through Fiscal Year 2012 so our adult education program could continue to do its valuable work in helping people succeed.
The Arizona Department of Education has noted our leadership. The department recently recognized PCC Adult Education for exceeding its projected gains and outcome measures for its federal report, putting Arizona among the top four states in the nation with the most gains.
Nearly 1,900 students are now enrolled in PCC’s adult education program. They come from diverse backgrounds and range in age from 16 to 86. Each is a testament to the ideals we honor during National Adult Education and Family Literacy Week.
To learn more about the PCC and our commitment to adult education, visit our website, www.pima.edu.
Deborah Gaddy is the new Academic Dean of Adult Education at Pima Community College. She previously directed programs in North Carolina and Texas.