In 2011, Arizona’s community colleges embarked upon a long-term Strategic Vision to significantly increase the number of Arizonans who achieve their postsecondary education and training goals, complete a degree or certificate, and/or transfer to a university. In order to measure progress toward the three major goals outlined in the Strategic Vision, the colleges have implemented a rigorous self- assessment and accountability process centered around the annual collection and distribution of data related to 28 key indicators.
Data presented in the 2016 Strategic Vision Student Progress and Outcomes Report identify areas of strength, as well as places where Arizona’s community colleges will need to focus their efforts in order to improve student access, retention, and completion. For some of the retention and completion measures, a specific group of students called the “Credential-Seeking Cohort” was tracked; this group is defined as full- and part-time learners who earned at least 12 credit hours by the end of their second year. Tracking this sub-cohort aligns Arizona’s data collection and accountability strategies with those of national community college initiatives such as the Voluntary Framework of Accountability (VFA). Furthermore, analysis of retention and completion outcomes within this sub-cohort provides a more accurate gauge of community college student success, as it takes into account learners’ diverse educational and training goals.
The 2016 outcomes presented here can be compared to those from previous years, and trends in student progress and outcomes are starting to emerge. However, many external forces (such as the state of Arizona’s economy, the actions of other public institutions of higher education, and the availability of funding for community colleges) also affect these trends, making long-term projections difficult at best.