Nearly two years ago, Arizona’s community colleges united for a project to significantly increase the number of residents who achieve their postsecondary education and training goals, complete a degree or certificate, and/or transfer to a university.
The colleges agreed to annually measure 30 indicators of success in the areas of access, retention and completion. The indicators range from enrollment statistics to course success rates. We presented our first report in 2012 for the 2010-11 school year, and the second will be available soon at www.arizonacommunitycolleges.org. With only two years of data to compare, it’s a bit soon to make definitive statements about trends in student progress and outcomes. But from what I’ve seen, Arizona’s community colleges are doing some heavy lifting.
Nearly three-fourths of Arizona high school graduates who enter higher education the following year attend a community college. At 42 percent, Arizona’s community college-going rate is significantly higher than the national average of 27 percent. In 2011-12, Cochise College enrolled 31 percent of recent high school graduates in the service area. What’s more, at a tuition rate that is about 10 percent of median household income, Cochise beats nearly every other college in Arizona when it comes to affordability. Surprisingly, responses to a community survey the college conducted last spring implied that Cochise College has some work to do to educate local residents about the low-cost alternatives available here; many respondents were not aware that Cochise College tuition is a fraction of that of public and private universities.
Arizona community colleges retain 92 percent of credential-seeking learners from fall to spring semesters, and 77 percent to the following fall. These percentages are substantially higher than comparative national rates. Cochise retains 90 percent of credential-seeking learners from fall to spring and 62 percent from fall to fall. Cochise students continue to outpace the statewide averages in both developmental and college-level course success rates.
Cochise College awarded 3,223 of the 40,000 degrees and certificates awarded by Arizona community colleges in 2011-12. At Cochise, much of the growth in this area has been in the completion of academic certificates. In-state and overall transfer rates from Arizona community colleges, both 29 percent, exceed the national average of 25 percent. Statewide, four of five credential-seeking community college students achieve a successful outcome within six years. At Cochise, the number is seven of 10.
Where Cochise is focusing some of its attention is improvement in the areas of developmental learning. Many of our students need pre-college English or math in order to really get started on their goals. We have high hopes that the efforts of our K-12 Outreach program will foster a greater awareness among younger students of the opportunities available and preparation necessary for college, and that Professional Learning Councils made up of K-12, community college and university educators will help identify gaps, streamline curriculum, and align the skill sets necessary at each level of education for the overall benefit of students.
There is much more in the reports than can fit in this space. But it is clear that while Arizona’s community colleges will always have work to do to refine the system, they also are doing a lot of things right. Take a look at www.arizonacommunitycolleges.org and let me know, what grade would you give Cochise?
J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.