March 20, 2020
Tucson city skyline

High school graduates in southern Arizona will have a new college degree opportunity starting in fall 2020, when The Catholic University of America launches a collaborative program in business management with Pima Community College (PCC), located in Tucson.

The University's partnership with PCC has the dual aim of making an "innovation investment" in a new generation of learners, especially those from the large and growing Hispanic population in the area, and helping address local workforce development needs via close cooperation with area employers, according to Aaron Dominguez, University provost.

Currently, less than half of Arizona residents of working age hold a college certificate or degree, and state government and business leaders have committed to raising that to 60 percent by 2030. They project an additional 1 million college credentials will be needed to meet that goal by the end of the decade. 

Courses at Catholic University-Tucson will be administered by the Metropolitan School of Professional Studies (MSPS) and delivered through a hybrid model integrating interactive online modules developed by faculty members in the Busch School of Business with small group discussions moderated by on-site instructors/facilitators and a series of internships and apprenticeships. Visiting faculty lectures and an envisioned CEO lecture series will augment the curriculum.

While all interested and qualified students will be able to apply for the new program, the initiative is aimed, too, at filling perceived gaps in the region's higher education landscape, which currently does not include any Catholic-informed undergraduate options within 100 miles of Arizona's second-largest city.

"Although an overwhelming majority of Hispanic families in the United States report they are Catholic, historically they have been poorly served in terms of the availability of nearby Catholic colleges," said Catholic University President John Garvey, noting a University analysis showing that of the 25 U.S. cities with the largest total increases in Hispanic population, nine have no Catholic college or university in close proximity. "This is a population we're very much interested in serving, and with this new, non-residential program we look to provide a high-quality, Catholic undergraduate education that is affordable, opening a new pathway for more students in the Tucson area to realize their college dreams.

"We appreciate the warm welcome and assistance of our colleagues at Pima Community College, led by Chancellor Lee Lambert, as we have worked on designing this program for the past two years, and are grateful for the support it has received from many members of the community, especially Bishop Weisenburger," added Garvey. "We are looking forward to Catholic University becoming an active part of life and learning in Tucson."

The new program will begin with an initial cohort of 20 students. Plans are to expand enrollment to 100 per cohort within three years. Students will enter as first-year students at PCC and engage in a blend of PCC and Catholic University coursework, the latter including foundational classes in theology and philosophy typical for a CatholicU student on campus in Washington, D.C.

After completing the four-year program, students will have earned their PCC associate’s degree and their bachelor of arts degree in management through Catholic University. Approximately 75 percent of all credits earned by students in the program are expected to be awarded by CatholicU, says Vincent Kiernan, dean of MSPS.

“Pima couldn’t be more pleased to partner with Catholic University to expand educational opportunities in our region," PCC Chancellor Lee Lambert said. “As a designated Hispanic Serving Institution, Pima is dedicated to ensuring our region has the resources students need to create better lives for themselves and their families."

With the support of generous donors and by keeping costs down through the use existing space and leading-edge instructional technology, Catholic University also has been able to set initial tuition for the program at a level less than annual in-state tuition at any of the prominent four-year public universities in Arizona, thus helping ensure that lower-income students are able to share in the benefits that come from earning a traditional four-year Catholic University degree.