Cochise College joins nation’s top-ranked schools

Students walk through the Sierra Vista campus of Cochise College

Who would have thought a small community college out of Cochise County would be named the second-best community college in the country. Cochise College has six collegiate teams, over 11,000 students and over 50 major’s to choose from. These power-house campuses have a lot of hard work and dedication that has now been proven over time.

More than 700 community colleges all over the country were analyzed and ranked from worst to best conducted by WalletHub, a financial advising website that provides free credit scores online and financial advice daily. The community colleges were ranked on multiple factors: cost and financing, education, financing and career outcomes.

J.D. Rottweiler, President at Cochise College since 2009, has seen the college grow in more ways than one in the last 10 years.

“Cochise College has always had a solid foundation and board. I saw potential and value the community always had,” Rottweiler said.

With two main campuses in Sierra Vista and Douglas, Cochise College also has two smaller education centers, one in downtown Cochise and another in Ft. Huachuca. The Sierra Vista campus is known for being the commuter campus, whereas the Douglas campus houses all things traditional in a college sense—all athletic teams and student housing.

Cochise College has over 300 full time and part-time workers, helping create many jobs for the county.

Rottweiler explained his happiness and the main reasoning behind the college ranking so high.

“Our programs do well, especially nursing and the newer majors cybersecurity and aerospace. We have a strong staff, we always have and that’s what keeps us doing well. Everyone here works hard, and it is paying off for the school,” Rottweiler said. “I am very proud of where we are at as a school.”

Serving a smaller student population has advantages.

“We simply are a small community and that is why we are able to have the college experience and still have close relationships with professors who know me by name,” Lindsay Romo said, a recent graduate of Cochise College with a double AA degree in psychology and philosophy. “The relationships I have made have helped me get to the place I am now, transferring to the University of Arizona.”

“Our biggest number of students come from the city of Cochise and the communities around,” Rottweiler said. “We strive to open our doors wider and wider, attracting more students right out of high school in Arizona. Fifty-three percent of students in Arizona don’t go to a post-secondary school. We want that number closer to 70-75 percent.”

Cochise’s main goal is to reach a higher number of students at all campuses, and bring more awareness to communities near about the specific programs offered. Cochise county has around 125,000 population wise, a number the college hopes to see grow in the future. The special bond between students has plenty to do with the initiatives in place to make sure students receive the correct guidance, and know what the college has to offer.

“I think the school being in a rural community gives us an advantage,” said Robyn Martin, Director of Marketing and Communications for Cochise College. “We have smaller class sizes and are able to put extra effort into the students’ needs and make sure they are able to have jobs or transfer to a four-year institution after completion here.”

The school is always trying to create new and exciting programs or ideas for incoming students. In this upcoming calendar school year, the Graduating Senior Scholarship Guarantee will begin for recent high school graduates and college transfers.  Students can receive up to $750 in annual rewards for good grades.

“My job as director is to inform the community and students of what our school has to offer, creating incentives in order to keep having the success the school has had the last 10 years and more, the new scholarship guarantee is just one of the ways the school helps with outreach to new students,” Martin said.

Recently the college has seen a large number of students interested in the two-year nursing program, cybersecurity and aerospace engineering. These programs put Cochise College on the map for the popularity of the course subjects.

Cochise logo shown throughout the campus

“Coming into school my first year I had a different major picked, and after taking my first psychology course with a professor they showed me a whole new passion and I then knew what I wanted to study,” Romo said. “Our campus is a community aspect, everyone is happy to be here and the positive camaraderie is felt the minute you walk on to campus.”

Marketing and outreach is mainly done in house, both the graphics design and public information officer with the print shop on campus.

“We are still trying to capitalize on the traditional students, traditional marketing is used with ads on television and paper advertisements as well really help to get the word out to students and communities around,” Martin said.

The work done by the marketing and communications department feel the outreach done in surrounding communities is most important, overall Cochise College has had a high return in investment. The investment in resources for the students has been a high priority.

“There is always more we can do, and bigger and better ways to improve. And for now, we are lucky to have the great staff and faculty who allows us to be put on the radar for our school,” Rottweiler said.

Surrounding community colleges did not rank as well. Out of the 728 community colleges ranked, Phoenix College and Pima Community College, for example, scored in the 200 range. Rio Salado out of Phoenix scored in the 700’s.

The top five community colleges included Leech Lake Tribal College in Minnesota, which ranked at #1. The four after Cochise were Midwestern and Eastern states including Southwest Wisconsin Tech. College.

The unique equality between the students and faculty is what makes Cochise College truly standout. A testament to the positive and upbeat attitude from the students and faculty.

Hannah Bloom is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at

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