Phoenix offers lower tuition, job opportunities through new community college programs
PHOENIX — The results of yearlong work by Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and the city to get high-paying jobs to workers looking to enter essential industries began to take shape on Monday with the launch of Route to Relief programs.
“Thanks to the American Rescue Plan, we have a unique opportunity to help people enter extremely high-wage careers in Maricopa County,” Gallego said at a press conference at Gateway Community College.
Students can enroll in programs ranging from early childhood development and health care to manufacturing semiconductor chips through the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges.
Last year, the city approved $7 million of federal funds to help students with tuition, books and employment assistance.
Steven Gonzales, interim chancellor with Maricopa Community Colleges, said the jobs filled by their students are crucial to the Arizona economy.
In his conversations over the past year, he wanted students to know the value of higher education by alleviating the burdens that come with it.
“What we learned in talking with students is that it’s not always the cost of tuition that’s the most expensive, but it was the cost of living while in school,” Gonzales said.
“Things like paying rent, transportation, childcare. This program is an answer to that.”
Those pieces of assistance are crucial for attracting new career workers, especially for those who were let go during the COVID-19 pandemic or had to leave to take care of families.
While American private sector jobs have mostly recovered, government jobs still have about half a million openings that need filling.
The press conference featured a tour of Gateway Community College’s state-of-the-art workspace, which will be used by the initial batch of students who have a variety of reasons for being there.
“Anything I can and will learn is exciting to me because seeing how people have made things and will make things is just exciting to me,” said Joseph Foley, whose engineer father encouraged him to follow in his footsteps.
Bethuel Munai appreciates the practicality of his studies.
“I like this program because I see a future in it, and I hope to become a professional in machining,” Munai said.
Gonzales sees a lot of opportunity for not only those who participate in the program but also for the state’s businesses and those who will one day run them.
“It is the one thing that helps people change their socio-economic status,” Gonzales said. “The city’s help in recognizing that is going to be tremendous.”
More information on Route to Relief and its benefits can be found on the program’s website.