College going rate crisis isn’t just financial

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. Rottweiler

It’s a nice accomplishment to be named the No. 2 community college in the country, to be in the running for the Aspen Prize, to be recognized for value, return on investment, and economic mobility of students.

Perhaps Cochise College could be satisfied with that. But just as we bask in the glow of those accolades, local workforce statistics say that less than half of county residents have earned some kind of post-secondary credential, that only 49 percent of high school graduating seniors matriculate to some type of academic or training program, that a higher than average percentage of young people aren’t in school or working, and that Cochise County lags behind the state and the state lags behind the nation on these same statistics.

As president of a college that has “community” in its middle name, that’s hard to ignore. Those statistics point to a true community need that will only compound if it’s not addressed. We know if we can get students to us, we have the proven capabilities to help them be successful in the new economy. The challenge is getting them to us.

Two local organizations recognize that and recently took steps to help reach a population that no one is reaching. The Cochise County Sheriff’s Office and American Southwest Credit Union, through the 5th Annual Sheriff’s Bike Run, is directing funds raised toward graduating seniors who have earned less than a 2.5 grade point average in high school. The $13,000 contribution to the Cochise College Foundation will help Cochise College recruit 52 students.

Do I think the biggest challenge to potential students is financial? No, I do not.

I think there are other challenges, including lack of information, lack of support or mentors, lack of confidence, and lack of a vision for what can be, rather than what is familiar.

The funds raised through the motorcycle run are part of Cochise College’s Graduating Senior Scholarship Guarantee. The guarantee is an enticement for high school students to provide their contact information so that Cochise College can begin meeting the challenges identified above, particularly communication and overcoming barriers that often deter students from enrolling.

There’s more to it than that. The college is in preliminary discussions with county high schools about the possibility of embedding mentors who can help inspire high school students, particularly the uninterested or undecided, to envision and reach for their future, be that at Cochise College, some other institution, or through another meaningful activity that helps them progress. Your local superintendents, largely hampered by limited resources, recognize the need.

Overcoming apathy isn’t the easiest of work, and we need your help, be it a kind word of encouragement to a young person who needs it, or a contribution to the scholarship guarantee.

Residents who can’t or don’t contribute to the local economy represent a significant opportunity. Helping them pursue their potential is good for everyone, and we all have a stake in it. The alternative is to watch our workforce shrink and the vitality of our businesses and communities decline. If you’d like to do something about it, Cochise College welcomes you to be part of the conversation.

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at

Guided pathways: Setting students up for success

J.D. RottweilerBy J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

Cochise College, like more than 400 other community colleges, was formed during the 1960s. Community colleges were designed with access to higher education as the top priority. They were envisioned as the “people’s college,” providing educational opportunities to everyone. No longer would students need to leave their county, city, or town to access educational opportunities. This access to higher education fueled the “American Dream” of the 20th century.

The word “accessible” is at the heart of Cochise College’s mission. Cochise and many other community colleges have worked diligently to offer a wide variety of programs intended both for a broad audience and to meet workforce needs. We’ve built campuses and centers to make our services readily available, developed numerous programs, degrees, and certificates for diverse learners with diverse goals, adopted flexible scheduling, and, aided by the Internet and technology, created online and hybrid classes for time and location bound students. We’ve worked hard to keep tuition low. As a result of this accessibility, local and national enrollments soared. Today, more than 1,100 community colleges exist, enrolling over 12 million credit and non-credit students annually. In fact, more than half of the nation’s undergraduates spend some of their time enrolled at a community college.

But, like the Bob Dylan tune released in 1964 says, “The times, they are a changin’.”

Today, we need to maintain accessibility while focusing on student success as our top priority. While many students start at a community college, our state and nation needs more of them to achieve their academic goals. We are discovering far too many barriers to student success. Some of these barriers include lack of student preparation, disjointed programming and support services, unclear pathways to completion or transfer, limited guidance on career options, inefficiently structured developmental education, and limited monitoring of academic progress, to name a few.

At a time when federal financial aid is better designed to promote completion than in the past, it’s time to implement a more structured approach, from student intake all the way to graduation. Cochise is now exploring ways to implement key components of the guided pathways approach. This model presents courses in the context of a roadmap for students to reach their goals, with built-in progress monitoring, feedback and support at each step along the way. Finding a balance between student access and student success is the organizational challenge of the 21st century.

Davis Jenkins, a senior researcher at the Columbia University Community College Research Center, presents evidence to support the guided pathways approach in “Redesigning Community Colleges for Student Success.” The paper also outlines a process and timeline for implementation and provides brief examples of institutions that have done so. Some key principles of guided pathways that Cochise is exploring include:

  • Help students with career exploration and goal-setting from the start
  • Require every student to have a clear roadmap to completion, further education and job advancement.
  • Ensure that program learning goals are clearly articulated and are aligned with requirements for success in further education and/or employment.
  • Simplify choices for students, using program maps that students can customize with support from an advisor.
  • Provide predictable course schedules that make it easier for students to organize their lives around school and graduate on time.
  • Redesign the student intake process to help new students who are undecided about a major to choose a field of study as quickly as possible.
  • Integrate the teaching of foundational skills into college-level courses to enable academically unprepared students to successfully enter a program of study as soon as possible.
  • Monitor student progress on their program plans, providing frequent feedback and support as needed.
  • Build bridges into college programs (as opposed to preparing students for college generally) from high schools, adult basic education and other feeders.

Some internal shifts are already helping Cochise renew its focus. We now have a dean of student success. Student recruiting, marketing and enrollment management now work together to provide a well-communicated and -executed enrollment process. In addition, the college will participate in the Complete College America (CCA) 2017 Annual Convening later this year. CCA’s mission is to work with states to significantly increase the number of Americans with quality career certificates and/or college degrees. The convening, themed “Access to the American Dream,” will focus on CCA’s five game-changer strategies: math pathways, corequisite remediation, 15 credits to finish, structured schedules and guided pathways to success.

I can’t recall a time when I’ve been more excited about the direction Cochise College is taking to serve students and the community. The adjustments being made are about improving efficiency and effectiveness and serving students well, and I thank you, as well as our faculty and staff, for your patience and support as we move forward.
J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at

College honors highlight return on investment

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. Rottweiler

Cochise College has fared well on numerous national rankings in recent years. Most recently, the college earned the notice of for the economic mobility of its students, and WalletHub named Cochise the second best community college in the nation, based on an analysis of 14 indicators in the areas of Cost & Financing, Educational Outcomes, and Career Outcomes.

The methodology used to develop these rankings makes it clear that Cochise College stands out on a student’s Return on Educational Investment. For a cost that compares well with other institutions, plus an outstanding faculty and staff that are committed to student success, graduates are able to transition from being a student, seeking skills and knowledge, to a graduate, seeking employment opportunities or advanced degrees. Cochise College graduates are ready to enter the workforce and contribute to the economic well being of themselves, their family, and the community. It’s not just that Cochise is affordable and accessible. It’s about student success! It’s the instructional quality, support services, and culture of caring that helps shape a graduate who is prepared for their next step, whatever that may be.

Living examples of Cochise’s positive return on investment are neither few nor far between.

There’s Melissa Wendl (‘17), who has seen many benefits related to her financial situation, not to mention her own self-esteem. Melissa finished registered nurse training in May and began working in intensive care at Canyon Vista Medical Center in July. She covered the cost of her training out of pocket and with loans and scholarships. Her income allows her young family to experience things like the theater and zoo, expenses that she previously would have questioned. “It’s incredible to be able to do that without thinking about whether it’s affordable. It’s also an amazing feeling to be able to use the knowledge I gained for such a small investment to be able to help people, teach them things they don’t know about their bodies, and make a trip to the hospital, which is usually a horrible day, a little bit better.”

There’s also Linda Barker (‘06), a faculty member in sociology at Coconino Community College in Flagstaff who is pursuing an Ed.D. in educational leadership with an emphasis in higher education and community colleges. Linda credits her time at Cochise with helping her find her voice and develop critical thinking processes that she believes have made her a greater citizen, voter and human being. “My confidence and ability to ‘not know’ and ask questions comes from the faculty, staff, and administration that truly supported not just students but each other. That leadership is more rare than I knew then. I love (love!) what Cochise College offers and how it opened doors for me that were not even on my horizon! I speak of my alumni experience often and hold myself to a standard of integrity and ethics that was present to me from my experience at Cochise. I try to remember that spirit as I teach at my college.”

Tombstone native Charles Escarcega (‘89) credits a former drafting faculty member with taking the time to show him university programs. Charles was a member of the 1984 Apache baseball team, earned an associate of applied science in mechanical drafting from Cochise College, then went on to Arizona State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in industrial technology. Charles held a variety of engineering positions within the semiconductor, mechanical engineering, telecom and electrical engineering fields, taking him throughout the U.S. and Europe for work-related projects. “I am very thankful for meeting people like Max Schoenhals and Coach Bo Hall. These people had a very positive effect on my life journey.”

Kimberly Friend (‘88, ‘94) earned degrees in electronics and avionics, plus a certificate in building maintenance, and ended up with a career that ranged from Tucson International Airport to Southeast Arizona Medical Center, and from facility maintenance and management at Raymond W Bliss Army Health Center to command engineer and facility manager at the Fort Huachuca Electronic Proving Ground.

We are proud of our accomplishments and the accomplishments of our graduates. But we can do more! There are many individuals in Cochise County who need educational services but believe they are out of reach. That’s why we are implementing the Graduating Senior Scholarship Guarantee. The college’s goal of providing a scholarship to every Cochise County high school graduating senior is to provide more students with an opportunity to receive a return on their investment. We want to help position them for success and also impact state-level initiatives to increase post-high school enrollment and credential attainment, both of which are important workforce priorities.

We are passionate about creating opportunities for students to explore and achieve and equally enthusiastic to highlight the successes of alumni. If you’re a Cochise College alum who’s willing to share your story, contact us at You are part of an institution that is positioning itself to shine even brighter.

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at

Scholarship program aims to enhance workforce competitiveness

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. Rottweiler

There are three startling facts that must be addressed if Arizona is to remain competitive in the 21st century.

First, only 42 percent of Arizona residents 25-64 years of age have completed a 2- or 4-year degree or received a postsecondary certificate. But by 2020, 7 out of 10 jobs in Arizona will require more than a high school diploma. In fact most will be “middle skills jobs,” requiring education/training beyond a high school diploma but less than a bachelor’s degree.

Second, the college going rate for Arizona high school graduates is 53 percent, putting the state 40th in the nation; the highest college going rates are approximately 75 percent. The percentage is slightly lower (52 percent) in Cochise County, causing one to wonder what recent graduates will be doing, now and in the future.

This leads to the third fact: today, 15 percent of youth age 16 to 24 are neither in school nor working. According to one recent count, that’s about 2,300 Cochise County “opportunity youth,” so named because they represent economic potential.

To encourage educational attainment, increase college going rates, and decrease the percentage of “opportunity youth,” the college will provide a scholarship to any Cochise County high school graduating senior who meets basic academic requirements and enrolls full time the semester after high school graduation. The scholarship is renewable with continued academic achievement for up to four consecutive semesters of full-time enrollment.

If you are the family, friend or influencer of a member of the local Class of 2018 – or subsequent classes – this column is for you and we need your help in getting the word out! The high school seniors who will graduate next May are the first to be eligible for the Graduating Senior Scholarship Guarantee at Cochise College. Award amounts will be based on students’ official high school GPAs. Thanks to the sheriff’s office and American Southwest Credit Union, scholarship opportunities for students who might not otherwise be eligible for merit-based financial assistance will be provided through the 5th Annual Cochise County Sheriff’s Charity Ride scheduled for Nov. 4. We encourage all to support this important initiative!

Funds raised at the Cochise College Foundation’s event “An Evening at the Races,” future endowment earnings, and an employee giving program also support the scholarship guarantee. If you, too, want to help impact the economic competitiveness of Cochise County, I would encourage you to contact the Cochise College Foundation at

Education levels are linked to quality of life indicators like crime rates, population wellness, civic involvement, and financial security. Cochise College is working hard to support initiatives aimed at addressing workforce and economic competitiveness through various student success efforts. These include outreach to schools and a community awareness campaign; streamlined enrollment processes; redesigned developmental education curriculum in math, English and reading; and a student success component that places those who need it in an Academic Success Seminar. Cochise College is already accessible, and it is working to better enable students to achieve and complete. Over time, the college intends to extend its reach to lower grades to help students get on a path to earning the highest possible GPA and, therefore, the largest possible scholarship. It also intends to grow award amounts.

The Graduating Senior Scholarship Guarantee is now being promoted in schools. Deadlines and details are available at Encourage your graduating seniors to sign up now and your underclassmen to begin preparing for their future.

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at

Accessing and advancing the ancient

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerOn a recent morning walk along the Cracchiolo Pathway to Higher Education, which meanders across Cochise College and connects Cochise with the University of Arizona South and Buena High School, I was struck by the contrasting realities of education.

On the one hand, at the ribbon cutting of that very pathway several years ago, I spoke of education and its relationships to connectivity (bandwidth) and of the power of knowledge. The SSVEC and CenturyLink facilities that exist along the path inspired those remarks, which fit well with where we are as a modern society and how education can help us as we increase our connectivity to others and leverage the power of knowledge.

During that same stroll, I thought of a letter I recently received thanking the college for the opportunity to examine its archaeological collections. Researchers participating in Archaeology Southwest’s “Edge of the Salado Project” funded by the National Science Foundation examined ceramic pottery fragments and pieces of volcanic glass from seven regional sites. The pieces are housed at the college and curated by faculty member Rebecca Orozco; you can see some of them in displays funded by John and Rosaline Pintek at the Douglas and Sierra Vista Campuses.

The researchers’ findings were used to determine with whom prehistoric inhabitants traded (connected), where and how they made ceramics (knowledge), and when they were there. The information also was used to understand how local groups during the period A.D. 1200 to A.D. 1450 reacted to immigrants from northern Arizona that led to the development and spread of the “Salado” culture, which the researchers now believe was both political and religious.

So far, data from Cochise College’s collections have been used by researchers in a recently finished dissertation; one book chapter and three soon-to-be-submitted journal articles; and several presentations geared toward the general public. You can view the presentations by Dr. Lewis Borck at

My point in this is that knowledge continues to be power and connectivity can unite peoples today just like it did in the past. Only today the power of knowledge and the connectivity of people is accelerated by and with technology. The data contained in Cochise College’s archaeological collection are now part of one of the Southwest’s largest databases and can be accessed by researchers across the globe to provide insight on how people lived, worked, worshiped and connected with others.

As Cochise College finishes up a quiet summer session and prepares to return for fall, I want to reinforce that knowledge is power, education transforms lives and shapes how we see the world, and thanks in part to modern connectivity, it’s more accessible than ever.

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at

Plan for your passion with purpose

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. Rottweiler

Pamela Faye Sanders’ life was dedicated to teaching. Once a Cochise College student, she taught for 35 years at Double Adobe School. When she passed away two years ago, she kept her passion alive by establishing a scholarship for future educators. She did it through planned giving, documented in a trust that legally defined her wishes. Some of her assets established the scholarship fund, and her friends donated in her memory.

Many people who wish to support education or their communities have made similar plans to leave a legacy.

Alexander Black’s passion for fire service led him to establish a fire science scholarship. Benjamin Blom and Virginia Thomas wished to support nurses. Dr. George Spikes, Henry Bollweg, Betty Starysky, Harold Pease and Margaret Kent established general scholarships that help make a Cochise College education accessible.

Cochise College is grateful for the opportunity to help carry out their wishes and joyful each time a scholarship is awarded.

We would be honored to help you keep your passion alive.

“To many people, having money for retirement is not an issue, but having a purposeful retirement is essential,” according to Cochise College Foundation Treasurer Karen Justice.

With planned giving in place, you can impact what is important to you, and it’s easy to do. A gift of cash, appreciated stock, or real estate may allow you to establish a scholarship or support a program. By making the Cochise College Foundation a beneficiary on your retirement account or insurance policy, or making a bequest, your passion is kept alive. Your investment in students is an investment in Cochise County.

Currently, the Cochise College Foundation is looking for donors interested in helping to provide a scholarship to every Cochise County graduating high school senior. Support of aviation students also is a priority as the college implements a new tuition model and also seeks to help pilots complete both flight training and degrees.

If you value your education and want to make a difference by giving back, I ask you to contact the Cochise College Foundation for assistance in the “discovery” phase of your plans. There are many worthy causes at Cochise College and beyond.

In the meantime, here are some questions to consider.

  • Is the Cochise College Foundation among the top three recipients of your charitable donations? Of your beneficiaries?
  • Have you updated your will to reflect your desire to help Cochise College?
  • Have you named the Cochise College Foundation as a beneficiary of your IRA, trust, will, or insurance policy?

Finally, everyone cares about something. What is your passion, and how will you plan for it?

J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at



The other completion ceremonies

By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.

J.D. RottweilerMay brings an abundance of student success ceremonies. There are so many, in fact, that it’s easy for some of the more intimate and special celebrations to get lost in the festivities.

Around the time of Cochise College commencement, the college’s most celebrated event, it also hosted a ceremony honoring 24 new medical assistants, another recognizing 50 new certified nursing assistants, and another in honor of students who completed licensed practical nurse and registered nurse training. In the coming week, we’ll also recognize 39 individuals who have earned the GED since last year.

Though it’s understandable that not all ceremonies receive public attention, especially during “graduation season,” it’s no less inspiring and motivating for those of us who attend these events and reflect on the accomplishments of students.

The nursing ceremonies, in particular, draw crowds that rival those at commencement. That notice is merited in part because of the demand those rigorous programs place on students. The time nursing students put into school requires their families and friends to help provide support for a myriad of things, including financing, management of both school and home, childcare, reliable vehicles and more. There simply isn’t that much time for things to go wrong in the life of a nursing student.

The program’s reputation for excellence, too, deserves attention. Though it’s not an online curriculum, it was recently named the top two-year nursing program in Arizona by the Community for Accredited Online Schools. In addition, Jennifer Lakosil, the dean who oversees nursing and health sciences, was recently honored as a Fabulous 50 Nurse by the Tucson Nurses Week Foundation. In the near future, faculty and staff plan a curriculum reorganization that will include a licensed practical nursing (LPN) program for students who wish to pursue only that level of credential, a separate registered nursing (RN) program that will focus on students whose goal is a two-year degree, and an LPN-to-RN program that will serve as a bridge for LPNs who wish to pursue an RN.

In the coming week, teachers and administrators will attend another of their favorite events of the year. The GED ceremony celebrates students who, for a myriad of reasons, did not earn a high school diploma in the traditional way. It wasn’t that long ago that English language learners in the program self-published the book “Our Stories: The Dream Makers.” This year, in addition to honoring those courageous individuals who have completed the GED, the Cochise College Foundation will award Aida Estellean Wick Scholarships to students transitioning to college-level courses.

As I remind Cochise College graduates each year, commencement is not the end of a journey, but a point of departure for the next phase of life. The same is true for those earning a GED or completing healthcare training programs. On behalf of the Cochise College Governing Board, faculty, staff and administration, I wish all of our completers much success.
J.D. Rottweiler is president of Cochise College. Contact him at