CAC Aims to Improve College Completion Rates

Jacquelyn Elliott is implementing changes at Central Arizona College (CAC) that are making an impact not only on its students, but on the community as well. As president of CAC, Elliott has made it her mission to shift the academic atmosphere from being a “little university” back to being a community college and improving retention and completion rates.

Elliott also has reached out to the community, meeting with local employers to find out what they are looking for in CAC graduates. What she learned helped the college determine which courses to add to its curriculum so students can find immediate employment after graduation.

“Many of our students graduate debt free with an associate’s degree and find jobs in town,” she says, adding that many work in the manufacturing and industrial tech fields, which are hugely popular with students.

She is also cutting the number of classes offered. Two years ago, CAC taught 1,000 different courses.

“Students were overwhelmed by all the options,” Elliott says. “It was like the Cheesecake Factory menu where you don’t know where to start. Students want someone to tell them what courses to take and lay it out for them. Basically, it’s going from the Cheesecake Factory menu to the Chipotle model.”

Approximately 300 courses have or will be eliminated to help students stay focused on their coursework.

“The goal is for students to either complete their associate’s degree in as short as time as possible and graduate or transfer to a university at a junior level,” Elliott says. Before this, students often graduated with too many credits that couldn’t always be transferred, costing them unnecessary time and money.

“Our team of dedicated employees, working collaboratively with community members continue to lay the groundwork for new and innovative methods of distinguishing CAC and providing a gateway to higher education and rewarding careers for students,” Elliott says.