AROUND TOWN: PPCC Foundation hears of coming months as it becomes Pikes Peak State College | Way of life

On May 14, more than 900 students became the last with Pikes Peak Community College on their degrees. In July, PPCC becomes Pikes Peak State College.

On April 28, the PPCC Foundation Board, business community and supporters headed west to Boot Barn Hall for a President’s Dinner to push forward the meaning of these changes.

It has been an incredible 54 years since the school began as El Paso Community College, said PPCC President Lance Bolton. “We’ve come a long way.” There were laughs as some guests shared past stories of school mail going to El Paso, Texas, instead of slot machines in Colorado.

The words “community college” had over the years carried a stigma that really didn’t fit, Bolton said. Instead, the PPCC and now the PPSC fill the skills gap. “It’s a very affordable higher education option.” And plans are expanding to “strengthen the region’s workforce.”

“We continue our commitment to combine degrees and certificates and to develop more bachelor’s degree programs,” Bolton said. Three baccalaureates are in place and four others are under development.

“What won’t change are tuition fees and the opportunity to achieve equal educational outcomes,” Bolton said.

A community needs nurturing for dental hygienists, said Lisa James, Executive Director of the PPCC/PPSC Foundation. There are four training programs in Colorado, but none in the Pikes Peak area.

“Why?” she asked, and replied, “start-up costs are very high. We’re looking at $8.2 million and we already own the building. Our goal is a new dental center on the Rampart Range campus offering dental assisting and a new dental hygiene program to launch in the fall of 2024.” They plan to offer direct service to low-income patients. It is planned to enroll 24 hygiene students and 36 dental assisting students each year; 250 patients will be served annually.

Another strength is the school’s nursing programs in place since fall 2018. James explained, “It’s a big step from CNA – a 16-week course – to an RN, a two-year program after passing the prerequisites. We need a licensed practical nurse program to bridge the gap between a nurse aide certificate and an RN. The LPN program coordinator will begin in fall 2022 and the program will launch in fall 2023.”

How will the PPSC move forward with adding staff? Bolton described a model already in place, Dakota Promise, in which graduating seniors in Harrison District 2 can receive guaranteed tuition, books and fees from the SPPC. It was “designed to double Harrison’s college attendance rate over three years. Dakota Promise exceeded this goal in the first year.

The Harrison District 2 Foundation secured another five years of funding. With “philanthropic investments,” the program could expand to Mitchell High School and school districts with high free lunch participation rates and low college enrollment, Bolton said.

Another important area, Bolton said, is data security across industries. “We launched the cyber program in 2018 and are officially recognized as a center of academic excellence in cybersecurity,” Bolton said. “SPPC enrollment is strong in pre-engineered computing and cyber programs that directly serve the needs of the space and aerospace industries. Video from the evening also showed the school’s growing need for technology training, and “our highly competitive advanced manufacturing industries in the Pikes Peak region are no exception,” he said.

There were greetings for the work and support of the PPCC/PPSC Foundation during the transition: Shirley Stewart, President; Jordan Ayers, Vice President; Michael Schroeder, Taffy Milliken, Martha Barton, Ann Cesare, Jason Dea Bueno, Stephanie Edwards, Kenya Lee, CJ Moore and Murray Weiner.

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