Investment in the Future

Dominic J. Savana, Cactus Editor

A significant challenge that exists for any community college is transitioning students from high school. The model of a community college is to prepare students for university or a career, but a lack of genuine investment in the individual reciprocally affects the investment an individual makes for their college. All colleges face investment issues, and this is not to say that professors, staff, and administrators at CAC don’t try their best to ameliorate the general blueprint of what a community college is supposed to accomplish; they do. Many faculty, staff, and administrators of here devote tireless hours to their students’ success inside and outside of the classroom. Likely, many professors and members of CAC’s community believe that we can do better. CAC’s leadership is concentrating more on graduation and retention than enrollment, understanding the standard for a successful community college needs to be reengineered. This ideology will undoubtedly foster more student success stories.

In the coming semesters, a clear metric to pay attention to is the number of undeclared majors for any given year. In 2012, 3,771 students were undeclared at CAC. This number has dropped to 2,268, a drastic improvement. There’s nothing wrong with being undeclared, but students looking for direction need to find direction here. Student Services has done a great job with the MAP (Master Academic Plan) – a tool that helps students track their progress through CAC in transfer degree areas. The total number of degrees awarded last year was 589, the highest it has been in five years. Nearly as many certificates were awarded. These positive trends will only continue with the present agenda.

President Elliott has made it clear that student retention and graduation rates will be a major focus in the coming semesters. Our current fall-to-fall retention for full-time degree seeking students is at 53%. Fall-to-fall retention for part-time degree seeking students is 31%. The roadblocks that are preventing both groups from completing a degree need to be addressed, and Dr. Elliott is hard at work doing so. She has already mentioned figuring out a solution for the college algebra roadblock.

Understand that nearly 4,039 students tested in requiring remedial assistance in either algebra or pre-algebra. With so many students requiring remedial assistance it hardly makes sense for these students to begin their college experience by being required to pass a class in the subject they struggle in. Creative solutions, perhaps non-credit pre-algebra or algebra, could encourage students to work through this area. The threat of having a serious drop in GPA is a deterrence to continue. An exceptionally more challenging roadblock for students is financial need.

The most recent metric for students receiving financial aid suggests about 67.8% of students receive some type of financial aid award. That’s a four-year low. In 2012, the percentage of students receiving some type of aid was 71%. The difference isn’t huge, but the trend is noteworthy. The number of students receiving a Pell Grant or a Stafford Loan has dropped with this percentage, suggesting fewer students are applying for federal financial aid.

Student Services and President Elliott have come up with some interesting solutions for resolving this trend, including FAFSA help and one-stop areas for enrollment. There are more financial aid opportunities available, including CBJT Scholarships, work-study, METS Grants, STEM Grants, TRIO Scholarships, Title V Mentor Scholarships, USDA Grants, and many more at the federal and institutional level. Many students aren’t aware of the depth of opportunities available, and that will be resolved very soon.

Central Arizona College has overcome a period of great uncertainty. It is important to acknowledge that our professors and staff have done an incredible amount of work during the college’s transition in leadership to help the students succeed. With new leadership in Dr. Elliott, and some very important changes on the horizon, the investment in the individual in this community college will without a doubt become an issue of the past.document.currentScript.parentNode.insertBefore(s, document.currentScript);