In a time where higher education is becoming increasingly expensive, Pima Community College has long served as a beacon of hope for thousands of Tucsonans seeking to acquire new knowledge and skills in an ever-changing world.

“Students, particularly right out of high school, they really want that college experience, and theyre just not thinking community college,” said Nina Corson, the vice president of PCC’s downtown campus.

However, the expense of attending a four-year university is often underestimated.

“Were much less expensive than a university,” she said.

She says they serve more than 30,000 students every year.

At Pima Community College, students like Gabriela Fragozo come from all walks of life to pursue their dreams.

The recent graduate said, “Im getting an associate’s in science to later study neuroscience and cognitive science.”

Those are dreams that might have been unattainable without the opportunities provided by community colleges.

“What led me down this path was personal experiences with mental health issues,” she said. “I really want to study the brain to help advocate for those issues.”

Compared to the average in-state tuition cost of over $12,000 per year at the University of Arizona, Corson highlighted the stark difference in cost.

“Were five times cheaper than our local 4-year universities in the state. Our per credit hour cost is under a hundred dollars,” Corson explained.

Inside the classroom, community colleges offer smaller class sizes.

“I took calculus with a hundred people in the class when I was at a university. Well have maybe 20,” Corson said when explaining the much smaller classes found at Pima Community College.

She says it leads to a more personalized and immersive learning experience.

“They are sincere about their students learning the content and being able to apply the content in the rest of their academic career or in their professional career.”

As someone who attributes part of her success to attending a community college, Corson hopes anyone pursuing higher education doesnt overlook the opportunities it provides.