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Tue, Sept. 17

Yavapai College earns mediocre national ranking
Cochise College ranked No. 2 two-year college in the country

Yavapai College statement

Statement from Clint Ewell, Yavapai College’s vice president of finance and administrative services:

I think it is important for the Courier writers (and readers) to realize there are several College ranking systems, all of which use somewhat differing criteria and weights for each criteria, and many with agendas beyond providing data. Depending on the criteria and the weight, Yavapai College could be the best or the worst in the country. Using Wallethub’s criteria and weights, we were average.

Their Methodology (attached) evenly splits importance (i.e. Weight) between Costs & Financing, Educational Outcomes, and Career Outcomes. Though as an experienced higher education professional, I have several concerns with the Wallethub Methodology, let’s compare YC to our state peers: YC was 2nd in Costs and Financing as well as 2nd in Educational Outcomes if we consider the Maricopa Community Colleges as a system. Where YC struggled was in the Career Outcomes, which is comprised of 2/3 Graduate Salary divided by Tuition Cost and 1/3 Loan Default rate.

I would assert that Yavapai College is not solely responsible for what industries are part of the Yavapai County economy — we are primarily Retail and Hospitality which are not the highest-paying jobs, and this affects YC’s measure. YC will continue to support Cities and Towns in their efforts to recruit new businesses to our region by providing Economic Development reports as well as state-of-the-art workforce development training, ranging from Health, to Business, to technical industrial training.

Likewise, it is interesting that Colleges are held accountable for the student loan default rate, when it is the Federal Government and private sector who approves these loans. That being said, Yavapai is working diligently to lower the loan default rate, as well as the amount borrowed. We strongly promote education on the front end of the student loan process so that students are fully aware of the resources available to them as well as their responsibilities to repay the loans. We have also recently partnered with Student Connections, a company specializing in lowering higher ed loan default rates, to help us in these efforts.

Yavapai College’s priority continues to be the success of its students. Per the WalletHub assessment, there are many things Yavapai College is doing well, but we want to be even better. For the past couple of years, Yavapai College has been working on the Pathways project, which is building a clear path for students to complete a certificate or degree. For example, we have developed “academic maps,” visually showing students the classes and steps they need to take to earn a certificate or degree. But Pathways is affecting many processes throughout the College such as helping all undecided students learn more about career options, and we are now proactively counseling students who do not meet academic and non-academic milestones. A big part of the initiative is to also build strong high school to YC Pathways through enhanced opportunities to meet with College Advisers as well as to earn college credits in high school through Dual Credit and JTED programs. Finally, we are improving the YC to university and YC to employment Pathways.

PHOENIX — The way WalletHub looks at it, Cochise College has the second best community college in the country.

It’s not that the district spends a lot on each student. In fact, the financial advice website found per-student spending among the lowest in the country.

The relatively low tuition and fees in comparison to other colleges helped. So did higher-than-average faculty salaries.

Yavapai College fell solidly in the middle of the pack, with a rank of 365 out of 728. Its cost, $2,280, combined with per-pupil spending of $14,462, a 23 percent graduation rate, 19.0 student-to-faculty ratio and loan default rate of 22.2 percent contributed to the ranking.

What pushed Cochise to the No. 2 spot locally was the high number of degrees, certificates and other credentials it issues based on the number of students enrolled. And the Cochise system had among the lowest student-loan default rates in the country.

The Mohave community college system also showed up near the top at No. 41, followed by Scottsdale Community College, a branch of the Maricopa county system.

At the other extreme, WalletHub ranked Rio Salado Community College at No. 715 out of 728 colleges on the list that were reviewed.

While the college cost the same $2,094 as others in the Maricopa system, WalletHub found per student spending at the far low end. And the college had a first-year retention rate of just 33 percent, with just 5 percent of those enrolled going on to graduation.

That, however, may have to do more with the unique role of Rio Salado, which caters more to students looking to take individual classes rather than pursue a degree.

Not all Arizona community colleges were included in the study. WalletHub spokeswoman Diana Popa said some members of the American Association of Community Colleges were excluded “due to data limitations.”

But among the 19 colleges in the study there were some significant differences.

That starts with how much it costs.

The Tohono O’odham Community College was listed as the cheapest among the schools studied in the entire country, with typical tuition and fees of just $842 a year.

Even that does not tell the whole story, with the tribe offering scholarships to recent high school graduates and students with general equivalency diplomas to cover the cost of not only tuition and fees but also $250 toward the cost of books. There is a requirement to register for at least 12 semester hours and maintain a 2.0 grade-point average.

WalletHub also awarded points to the tribal college based on having just eight students for each faculty member.

But the system lost points in the study because of a first-year retention rate of just 45 percent.

By contrast, the Pima Community College System, with in-state tuition and fees of $2,046, retained 64 percent of its students after the first year.

On the other side of the equation, Pima lost points for relatively low financial aid, with the average grant or scholarship of $3,540.

The report pointed up some other distinct differences among the Arizona community colleges studied.

Consider per-pupil spending.

Central Arizona College topped the list at $15,953, with Northland Pioneer Community College not far behind at $15,325.

At the other extreme were Rio Salado at $6,345 per student and Cochise, which spent just $6,729.

There also were marked differences in salaries.

Even after the cost of living of each area was factored out, Coconino faulty were making the least, on average, at $52,153. Their counterparts at Pima were doing little better at $52,503.

The best salaries were in the Maricopa system, topping off at $87,697 in Glendale, $86,984 in Mesa and $86,362 in Phoenix.

And the student loan default rate ranged from just 5.2 percent in the Cochise system to more than 30 percent at South Mountain Community College.

WalletHub also looked at what share of the faculty are full time.

The Yavapai colleges were close to the top nationally, with nearly 56 percent in that category. No one else in Arizona came close, with Northland Pioneer at 34.5 percent.

Leaving aside Rio Salado with just 4 percent of faulty on a full-time basis, Coconino had the lowest figure at 17 percent.

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