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

On April 28, the PPCC Foundation board, the business community and supporters had gone Western at Boot Barn Hall for a President’s Dinner to advance what those changes will mean.

It has been an amazing 54 years, going back to the school’s start as El Paso Community College, said PPCC President Lance Bolton. “We’ve come a long way.” There were chuckles as some guests shared earlier stories about the school’s mail going to El Paso, Texas, instead of mail slots in Colorado.

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

“We continue our commitment to associate degrees and certificates and to develop more bachelor’s degree programs,” Bolton said. There are three bachelor’s degrees in place with four more in development.

“What will not change is the cost of tuition and the opportunity for equal educational outcomes,” Bolton said.

One community need to be filled is for dental hygienists, said PPCC/PPSC Foundation Executive Director Lisa James. There are four training programs in Colorado but none in the Pikes Peak region.

“Why?” she asked, and answered, “the startup costs are very high. We are looking at $8.2 million and we already own the building. Our goal is a new Dental Center at the Rampart Range Campus featuring dental assisting and a new dental hygiene program to launch in fall 2024.” They plan to offer direct service to low-income patients. Plans are to enroll 24 hygiene 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 leap from CNA — a 16-week course — to an RN, a two-year program after you pass the prerequisites. We need a Licensed Practical Nurse program to fill the gap between a nurse aide certificate and an RN. The LPN program coordinator will start in fall of 2022 with the program launching by fall 2023.”

How will PPSC move forward adding to the workforce? Bolton described a model already in place, Dakota Promise, in which Harrison District 2 graduating seniors can receive guaranteed tuition, books and fees at PPSC. It was “designed to double Harrison’s college-going rate over three years. Dakota Promise surpassed that goal in year one.”

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

Another important area, said Bolton, is data security in all industries. “We launched the cyber program in 2018 and are officially recognized as a Cyber Security Center of Academic Excellence,” said Bolton. “Enrollment at PPSC is strong in pre-engineering computer science, and cyber programs that directly feed the needs of the space and aerospace industries.” The evening’s video also showed the increasing need for the school’s technology training, and “our highly competitive advanced manufacturing industries of the Pikes Peak Region are no exception,” he said.

There were salutes for the PPCC/PPSC Foundation’s work and support during the transition: Shirley Stewart, chair; Jordan Ayers, vice chair; Michael Schroeder, Taffy Milliken, Martha Barton, Ann Cesare, Jason DeaBueno, Stephanie Edwards, Kenya Lee, CJ Moore and Murray Weiner.

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