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College eliminating some classes in quest to focus on need

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Posted at 1:35 PM, Jan 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-20 15:35:46-05

CASA GRANDE, Ariz. — The president of Central Arizona College says less can be better when it comes to how many classes the college offers Pinal County residents.

The college was teaching about 1,000 courses two years ago when President Jackie Elliott arrived and has since put up to 300 of those on the chopping block.

The Casa Grande Dispatch reports that’s part of an effort to simplify the college’s course catalog and provide stricter academic pathways for students.

“We really need to ensure that we’re not having students take hours they don’t need,” said Elliott, who has made science, technology, engineering, and math programs a priority since taking over as CAC president in 2016.

The American Association of Community Colleges several years ago launched a national effort to improve college completion rates by creating clearer pathways from school to employment.

CAC was recently picked as one of 13 community colleges in the country to participate in the association’s effort of adopting this new curriculum model.

“Basically, it’s going from the Cheesecake Factory menu to the Chipotle model,” said Elliott, referencing the popular Mexican restaurant chain that offers fewer menu options.

With eight campus locations stationed throughout Pinal County, the community college awards hundreds of degrees and certificates each year.

But data the college has collected shows students, on average, leave CAC with 100 credit hours, which is just about 20 shy from earning a bachelor’s degree at a four-year university.

Elliott said one of her goals has been to re-connect CAC with the community. The college was not fulfilling all the educational needs of Pinal County, she said, and had begun to think of itself as a “little university.”

“That’s not who we are,” she said. “That’s why ‘community’ is in our title.”

CAC has restructured some of its curriculum to offer programs that prepare students for jobs with local employers. Elliott said the college is considering new programs for careers in health care and drone technology.

As for the future, Elliott’s biggest goal is to improve retention and completion rates among students.