EAC recognized nationally for best practices

Contributed Article By Lori Dugan

THATCHER – The National Community College Benchmarking Project (NCCBP) released its 2016 report last month ranking Eastern Arizona College (EAC) in the 90th percentile in nine key benchmark areas.

The NCCBP is one of four projects that have been developed by the National Higher Education Benchmarking Institute. Since 2004, over 400 two-year institutions have participated in the data-collection and reporting process for the Benchmarking Institute’s projects. These projects and that level of participation make the Benchmarking Institute the first and largest provider of community college benchmarking and peer comparison services in the nation.

“This report is a really good tool for community colleges seeking to self-assess and move toward industry best practices,” Glen Snider, EAC’s director of institutional research, said. “But the outcomes of this year’s report are really too impressive not to share because they tell the story of EAC and the community it serves.”

EAC scored in the top 10 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, Credit Student Enrollment, Student Satisfaction and Engagement, College-level Course Retention and Success, Developmental-Remedial Credit Course Retention and Success, Developmental Students First College Level Course Retention and Success, Retention and Success in Core Academic Skills, Community Market Penetration and Non-Credit Workforce Training (Small Business Development).

“These best practices designations mean that EAC is setting the benchmark nationwide in these key areas and that other schools in the study will be looking at us to find out how they can improve their own programs,” Snider said.

NCCBP looks at several factors when determining its rankings. It relies on self-reporting from participating schools as well as results from the Noel Levitz Student Satisfaction Survey, which is taken by tens of thousands of students nationwide.

Here is a more detailed explanation of the nine areas where EAC sets the benchmark nationwide and what that means to the community:

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. “To rank in the 90th percentile in retention, as a rural college, is an impressive feat,” Snider said. “To be setting best practices for the nation from here in Thatcher is a true triumph for our college community.”

Student Satisfaction and Engagement: This criteria 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 report included some other interesting informational data. For example, 48% of EAC’s students are occupational. That puts EAC in the 87th percentile of schools educating that many occupational students alongside traditional transfer students. “This figure literally defines us as a job readiness and re-training machine, and one of the best in the country,” Snider said.

The survey also revealed that among EAC students, 16% require remedial math or reading classes. That puts EAC in the top 5 percentile of schools with students needing remedial classes.

“It’s really phenomenal when you take all the data into account,” Snider said. “We face challenges here in Graham County. For example, we are an open access school. We admit anyone who applies, which drives the numbers of remedial students up, and yet we are in the top 10 percent with students not only completing their degree but doing so faster than 90% of the other schools. This is true for all of our students: re-entry, transfer and occupational. It’s really phenomenal. And that’s why other schools will look to us to improve their programs.”

Snider said one of the biggest pieces to our success has been the implementation of the pre-academic course, Monster Bridge. Originally piloted by the EAC athletics department, Monster Bridge is a two-week course offered to incoming freshmen. “Students come to community college with vastly different skill sets,” Snider said. “Monster Bridge was put in place to educate new students about how to manage in college. They learn basic skills and learn how to get help when they need it.”

Since implementing Monster Bridge campus wide, EAC’s retention rates have driven us into the top 10 percent of the nation for student retention.

“EAC’s mission statement is clear,” President Mark Bryce said. “It reads, in part, ‘The College is accountable to its stakeholders for educational results, fiscal responsibility, and cultural development.’ To be setting best practices in nine key areas that directly relate to our mission statement tells me that we are on the right track here at Eastern.”

For more information about the National Community Colleges Benchmarking Project – 2016 Report, or to obtain a copy contact Snider at (928) 428-8245 or by email at glen.snider@eac.edu.