Local university branches experience enrollment growth
YUMA — During a time when community college enrollment is trending downward nationwide, Arizona Western College is defying the odds with a four percent increase in full-time student enrollment and an overall seven percent increase in students this fall.
According to the Arizona Office of the Auditor General, AWC is the only community college in the state to show enrollment growth over five years, with a 2.34 percent increase from 2018 to 2022. AWC’s university partners are also experiencing record enrollment growth, with Northern Arizona University-Yuma enrollment up by 17 percent, Arizona State University Local – Yuma expanding exponentially to 75 students since opening in the Spring of 2022, and University of Arizona – Yuma up to 189 students continuing a robust enrollment as new programs are added.
AWC is leading the state in university transfers with a 2.5 percent increase in students continuing their education to earn a baccalaureate degree from a state university partner from 2021 to 2022. Over a five-year period, the college saw an increase of about 24 percent in the total number of AWC students who went on to receive a baccalaureate degree, moving the college closer to its BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal) of doubling baccalaureate attainment rates by 2035.
Additionally, the college has experienced a 617 percent increase in dual enrollment since the District Governing Board approved the $25 per credit hour discount for students 18 and under in the Summer of 2017.
“There’s a little bit of magic happening here in Yuma and La Paz counties. These increases are a result of the hard work of our staff, our high school partners, and an overall communitywide effort to create a college-going culture,” said AWC President Dr. Daniel Corr.
Dual Enrollment classes allow for students to earn college credit on their high school campus in a variety of academic and career and technical education areas of study to apply toward a college certificate or degree. In the past five years, over 95,000 college credits have been earned by local high school students.
“This community believes in the way education transforms lives, and is why the college recently celebrated graduating 102 high school students in the past year who earned their associate degree before their high school diploma. We are proud to be a part of the students’ success,” said Biridiana Alegria-Martinez, AWC Director of Outreach and Recruitment/Early College Program.
“The gateway to higher education is starting in high school, if not earlier, through dual enrollment,” Dr. Corr added. “Expanding opportunities for students to have a taste of college success while they’re still in high school is critical, not only for the growth of this institution, but for the communities we serve.”
Dr. Corr also attributes AWC’s growth to the intentional work of college staff to hold each other accountable for delivering an amazing student experience.
“We believe we’re the only community college in Arizona, and we may be one of the few in the nation, that has a Student Experience Statement. We are committed to providing an amazing student experience and making sure that students are having the experience they signed up for,” said Dr. Corr.
Student Experience Statement:
Arizona Western College commits to delivering an amazing student experience characterized by:
• A connected community within which students are encouraged, challenged and feel they belong;
• Programs developed and aligned with employment opportunities;
• A clear path to success and completion;
• Flexible, accessible services and learning approaches;
• Contemporary technology that supports and enhances the AWC experience
Last year, students had an opportunity to complete a Student Experience Satisfaction Survey, in which a high percentage of students rated their experience as being better than the national average in several areas.
A Gallup poll released in July showed that Americans’ confidence in higher education has dropped from 57 percent in 2015 to 36 percent in 2023. But at AWC, 9 out of every 10 students who completed the Student Experience Satisfaction Survey shared that they had confidence in the college. Also, 67 percent said their college experience was better than expected, 82 percent said they were satisfied with their overall experience at the college, and 87 percent said they would consider enrolling again.
“The survey looked at virtually every aspect of this institution – tutoring, library services, quality and availability of faculty, how safe they feel on campus, the admission process, advising, and so much more. It’s evident that so many of our students are feeling supported, challenged, and cared for at AWC. That’s especially important when you consider the fact that 72 percent of our students are first-generation college goers,” said Dr. Corr.