Want to know Gila Community College’s dropout rate? You’ll have to ask the college’s attorney.
Senior Dean Stephen Cullen told supervisors early this week that the college has a lower drop out rate than others statewide. He spoke in response to a report by the Goldwater Institute calling the institutions “dropout factories” with an average three-year graduation rate of about 18 percent.
The Roundup asked GCC Public Relations Coordinator Trena Grantham for the rate since Cullen didn’t specify.
She told a reporter to file a public records request, and that she would “forward it on.”
The next day, the Roundup received an e-mail from Lynne Adams, GCC’s attorney.
“GCC is determining whether any responsive documents exist. If they do, GCC will produce them to you promptly.”
GCC has a history of involving its attorney in routine records requests, including requests for budget information.
Meanwhile, the college is paying its attorney to handle these matters while staff remains on furloughs four days each month and students pay 30 percent higher tuition.
Traditionally, a reporter could call someone at the college and have them provide the rate over the phone.
Arizona Ombudsman Citizens’ Aide Pat Shannahan said, “It’s not at all common for public bodies to go and ask an attorney about a public records request.”
He added, “it would be legitimate if it were a potential issue of confidentiality.”
However, the information requested simply involved the dropout rate. If the school served K-12, the Department of Education would post the information on the Internet. Community colleges, however, have no overseeing agency.
“It’s legal for them to do,” said Shannahan.
“It’s something they should not do if they’re doing it in an effort to delay your public records request.”