By J.D. Rottweiler, Ph.D.
If you asked me in April to guess how Cochise College would be positioned in June for the near future, a dramatic summer-to-summer enrollment increase of 14.6 percent probably would not have been my prediction. Yet, that’s where we find ourselves, thanks, in part, to the extraordinary efforts of faculty and staff.
A mere two months ago, we were working from home and trying to both finish out the spring semester and plan for an entirely new and unknown reality moving forward. Faculty, some of whom had little or no experience teaching remotely, shifted suddenly, out of necessity, to new modalities and were in much closer contact with their students, who were unable to physically attend class. Coronavirus has inspired us to redirect our convocation efforts from a one-day gathering in August to a “mega-convocation” that includes an entire summer of faculty support sessions themed, “Re-inventing Ourselves” and “Everything You Didn’t Know That You Didn’t Know” (and there IS a lot to know…imagine it from the student perspective). We will provide ongoing training in various teaching modalities and general sessions for faculty to share their experiences and best practices. For the sake of student success, we aim to implement what we learned this spring and to be better prepared for future emergencies that challenge our status quo.
The enrollment increase described above may also have to do with the employment rate. In Arizona, it reached 12.6 percent in April. Traditionally, when unemployment increases, so does enrollment. Many people who are not working seek to better themselves for future jobs. This time, there was and still is widespread uncertainty about whether individuals who are un- or under-employed will be financially able to choose to enroll in college.
In terms of financial support, the college has in recent years begun guaranteeing a partial scholarship to graduating Cochise County high school seniors. That is continuing and expanding. But for the coming academic year, we’re also offering a limited number of scholarships to help the county’s adult learners who have been away from education for a year or more commit to building their skills and knowledge. The new Non-Traditional Student Scholarship will cover about half of a full- or part-time student’s tuition for one year.
The scholarship helps students like Blanca Lopez, a mother of four who knows that her job in housekeeping at a local hotel is not a career path that will provide for her family. Blanca wants to enroll in the medical assistant program but needs financial assistance to make that a reality. She will receive the scholarship for fall and this summer earned money for books and supplies by making and selling face masks.
Blanca is not alone. If the enrollment trend described above holds for fall, Cochise College can expect to have more students than normal who need financial assistance to get back on their feet. That’s where you can help.
Some gracious donors have provided challenge gifts so that your contributions this summer to the Non-Traditional Student Scholarship will be matched, up to $25,000. The Cochise College Foundation has worked on this challenge with the Paul Dwyer Memorial Trust, as well as Doug Dunn and Donna Gaab, and aims to raise $50,000 to help adult students reinvent themselves. We thank these supporters for their vision and leadership.
Your gifts can help inspire students to commit to college and provide a level of confidence that they’re supported by a community of people who care about their success. Scholarships provide students with hope and motivation as they work to reinvent themselves. As county residents, we all have a vested interest in that.
J.D. ROTTWEILER, Ph.D., is president of Cochise College. Contact him at email@example.com.