Eastern Arizona College – Providing the Best Value Possible
Thatcher, AZ | Submitted by Todd Haynie
In a small, rural community east of Phoenix, Eastern Arizona College has been educating students for more than 125 years. Originally a small, church-owned academy, the college eventually became one of the founding schools in Arizona’s community college system. The campus hosts about 6,000 students, half of which whom come from the local area. Many of the school’s athletes hail from all over the U.S. world to participate in one of the eight athletic teams.
The school has received numerous accolades in recently years, in part because the faculty and staff believe so strongly in students. They aim to provide a personalized experience where they know students by name, attend athletic and fine arts events and stay closely connected with their pupils. It’s a tightknit community that is creating great results for students.
One of the reasons that so many students choose Eastern Arizona College is that it boasts the lowest tuition rates in the state. In fact, 75 percent of community colleges across the country have higher cost per student credit hour. The college was recently named a “Best Value College” – for the third year in a row – by University Research & Review, a company dedicated to improving the process of how a student selects a postsecondary school. However, cost isn’t the only factor that made this distinction possible:
- Eastern Arizona College maintains a focus on programs that are in-demand among businesses, such as nursing and welding, ensuring that students are able to find gainful employment after graduation.
- The student loan default rate is zero because student loans aren’t offered. The school works hard to keep tuition low and offer students opportunities for scholarship and work/study programs that will ensure they graduate debt-free.
- Students, faculty, and alumni hold the school in unusually high esteem. There is a close camaraderie, enhanced by a full fine arts calendar, athletics, and low student/teacher ratios.
Beyond being a great value, Eastern Arizona College has also been recognized for best practices by the National Community College Benchmarking Project. The school scored in the top ten percent of the nation on 22 key performance indicators leading to a best practices designation (meaning the top ten percent in the nation) in nine performance areas:
- Student Completion and Transfer—this is measured by looking at the total number of full- and part-time graduates completing their degrees in two, three, and six years. EAC scored at the top in all categories.
- Credit Student Enrollment—This measures how many EAC students enroll in consecutive fall semesters and indicates how well the institution retains the students it enrolls.
- Student Satisfaction and Engagement—This is measured using results from the Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Survey. In this survey, EAC ranked in the 90th percentile in the areas of College Experience Met Expectations, Overall Satisfaction with the College Experience, Would Enroll Here Again, Satisfaction with Concern for the Individual, Satisfaction with Instructional Effectiveness, Satisfaction with Registration Effectiveness, Satisfaction with Responsiveness to Diverse Populations, and Satisfaction with Student Centeredness.
- College-level Course Retention and Success—EAC has a higher percentage of students receiving a passing grade in college-level courses than 90% of other two-year community colleges.
- Developmental-Remedial Credit Course Retention and Success—EAC has a higher percentage of students receiving a passing grade in developmental/remedial-level courses than 90% of other two-year community colleges.
- Developmental Students First College-Level Course Retention and Success—EAC has a higher percentage of students receiving a passing grade in their first college-level math and writing classes after completing developmental courses in those same areas than 90% of other two-year community colleges.
- Community Market Penetration—Compared to other U.S. community colleges, EAC ranks in the top ten percent when it comes to Public Meeting Attendees from the Service Area Population (EAC has one of the highest levels of community involvement in the nation).
- Non-Credit Workforce Training—Eastern Arizona College’s Small Business Development Center is leading in the area of net revenue from total revenue.
The results of Eastern Arizona College’s efforts speak for themselves:
- 81% of students pass college-level courses with an A, B, or C grade, making a course success rate of 81%, which is 5% higher than the statewide average.
- 74 % of EAC students who had the goal of achieving a university degree achieved it within four years, compared to an average of 45% in Arizona and 60% nationally.
- EAC serves a large rural area that is economically challenged and has a high unemployment rate, yet has a 6-year, first-time to higher education part-time student program completion and transfer rate, which ranks it at the 88th percentile nationally.
- 88% of the occupational graduates seeking industry credentials achieve them.
And this has all been accomplished even though the college is up against big odds. The school is located in a rural, poor part of the state. Yet, the cost of education for a year at EAC represents only 16 percent of the median household income in the tri-county area (Graham, Greenlee, Gila counties): one of the lowest rates in the nation. What’s more, close to a third of students come from minority groups and 16 percent of their students require remedial math or reading classes. That puts EAC in the top 5 percentile of schools with students needing remedial classes.