Students affected by COVID-19 can get free tuition at Maricopa Community Colleges, funded by Phoenix

July 28, 2022

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By Alison Steinbach


Tami Smith moved to metro Phoenix from North Carolina earlier this year specifically to enroll at GateWay Community College’s machining program.


The 54-year-old wanted to shift from low-paying call center jobs to the manufacturing industry and she knew of the Maricopa Community Colleges from her brother’s time there. She moved cross-country and started learning machining as the only woman in her cohort.


But paying for the eight-month program isn't easy — she’s taken out student loans, worked at a pharmacy and balanced rent and health care costs. Her program ends in December, at which point she plans to get a machining job.


But reskilling at Maricopa Community Colleges is about to get easier for some county residents with a new program in partnership with Phoenix to fund training for career transitions towards high-wage, high-demand jobs.


Beginning this month, students whose jobs or income were affected by the pandemic can receive free tuition, monthly stipends and employment help in a range of workforce programs from manufacturing to health care at the county’s 10 community colleges.


Phoenix is using $7 million of its federal pandemic relief dollars to fund the "Route to Relief" program, which will run through December 2024.


“We are hoping today is the start to a career transformation for so many Phoenix residents,” Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said at the program’s launch Monday inside a spacious lab at GateWay’s Central City campus, where about a dozen machining students were mid-class.


“We have a unique opportunity to help people enter extremely high-wage careers in Maricopa County. We know it’s been a difficult few years for our residents, but we hope that today we celebrate some silver linings,” Gallego said.