College Now Says It Does Not Know Its Dropout Rate

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Gila Community College has no paper record of its dropout rate, counsel Lynne Adams recently told the Roundup in response to a public records request for the information.

Board member Tom Loeffler said the college’s response leads him to believe officials lack the data.

The records request stemmed from a Goldwater Institute report that called Arizona’s community colleges “dropout factories” because they have an average three-year completion rate of 18 percent.

After the report’s release, GCC Senior Dean Stephen Cullen told county supervisors that GCC enjoys a higher-than-average completion rate, but did not offer specifics.

The college’s public relations coordinator said she did not have the information, and told the Roundup to file a public records request.

About a week later, Adams wrote back that the college couldn’t locate any documents listing the requested information.

Cullen didn’t respond to a request for comment about whether he had the rate, or why he told supervisors the college has a low dropout rate if he didn’t have the data.

Supervisor Shirley Dawson, who asked Cullen to respond to the Goldwater report, said she was “not disappointed that the college has not chosen to jump into this fray of what is or is not a dropout.”

She said that many people take community college classes for personal enrichment, which could skew the statistics.

“My feeling is that the Goldwater Institute is off base in their comments,” Dawson said, adding that GCC programs such as nursing, cosmetology and fire science produce many graduates.

Loeffler also had concerns with the report’s definition of dropout, but he said the absence of dropout statistics fits in with other missing pieces of potentially helpful information such as financial data and teacher turnover rates.

“Those should be hard facts that we have available,” said Loeffler.

The missing information is “troubling” as the board tries “to get a handle on what is actually happening in our community college,” he added.

Before Eastern Arizona College ran GCC, board members received a monthly report from the administrators that outlined all the information now impossible to extract from GCC, said Loeffler.

That included bills, budget balances and personnel changes.

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