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1/25/2014 3:45:00 PM
Yavapai College employees voice concerns at Verde campus assembly
Dean James Perey led the Verde campus assembly Friday afternoon and spelled out Yavapai College’s 10-year plan, among other updates, for faculty and staff. VVN/Yvonne Gonzalez
Dean James Perey led the Verde campus assembly Friday afternoon and spelled out Yavapai College’s 10-year plan, among other updates, for faculty and staff. VVN/Yvonne Gonzalez
"The institution will look at all avenues in order to reach both sides of the mountain."

--Dean James Perey

Yvonne Gonzalez
Staff Reporter

CLARKDALE - Faculty and staff aired concerns Friday afternoon about the programs that are being moved, eliminated and created by Yavapai College's 10-year plan.

About 30 employees attended the Clarkdale assembly where Verde campus dean James Perey talked about enrollment numbers by location and how that has influenced the school's 10-year master plan.

Questions focused on the college's plan to move the nursing program to the Prescott Valley campus, bring agriculture to the Verde campus, and transportation.

"Change is always tough," Perey said.

Reductions in state funding have forced the college to become more efficient, especially when it comes to duplicating costly programs.

"We can't be everything to everybody," Perey said. "We really need to focus on what's the biggest bang for our buck when we're looking at providing educational opportunities to students."

Perey said bringing agriculture programs to the Verde campus will help make up for the loss of students that would be created by moving the nursing program.

Changes include creating more multi-use space that can be adapted for modern pedagogy to suit the students age 18 to 40 or higher who can all be in one class, Perey said.

"This county is double the national average for retirees," Perey said. "That in itself presents some challenges for a comprehensive community college."

The 10-year plan calls for expanding Career and Technical Education, among the fastest-growing and expensive programs at Yavapai. Perey pointed to the gunsmithing program at the Prescott campus, which is one of four in the United States and has a 200-person waiting list each year.

While the film program is on hiatus for one year so the college can reevaluate its relevance, the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute will continue to receive support there. General education classes are no longer going to be offered in line with the already-educated populace that lives in the area.

"There' s no doubt in our mind that we want to keep OLLI and community aid up there," he said.

General education classes are not being filled by the students that were expected to feed into the Sedona school from the high school. He said the college is working with Red Rock High School to make sure students have dual enrollment opportunities.

To be determined

Many of the projects in the master plan have details that haven't been discussed yet by the College.

Half of the college's enrollment is online, and half of the students in the nursing program are traveling from Prescott to the Verde campus for classes.

To eliminate duplications of costly programs, the college is considering a multi-million-dollar nursing facility on the Prescott Valley campus. Perey said it is unclear, however, what would happen to the nursing faculty and staff currently at the Verde campus.

"We always want to take into consideration, how does that affect faculty and how does that affect staff," he said. "But as of this point, because it's a conceptual idea, it hasn't been discussed, not in any circles or meetings that I've been in."

If a nursing facility is built, Perey said it would be in the second or third and final phase of planning. Leadership is finalizing a capital improvement plan based on the campus master plan, with a presentation in February of a budget containing specific financial recommendations.

"These are not inexpensive programs to launch," Perey said. "If this does come to fruition, it's a market-based program, meaning it's going to be higher than your normal tuition right off the bat," he said.

Like CTE programs, a culinary school would require subsidies from the college to operate.

"We need to see what subsidy we're looking at and how to minimize that," Perey said. "It could be something as large as the Southwest Wine Center and the cost to build that facility."

It's also unclear whether a culinary program will be pursued and, if it is, where it would be located. Perey said he has visited a couple of top culinary schools as part of a feasibility study he is conducting, which should be finished in the next month.

Faculty and staff concerns

Some audience members said eliminating nursing classes at the Verde campus would only serve to lower enrollment.

"Do we want to lose enrollment? Absolutely not," Perey said. "Really what I think we need is sustainability in program areas that we have."

Someone else pointed out that Verde students who want to take CTE or nursing would have to travel to Prescott Valley for all of their studies.

"The institution will look at all avenues in order to reach both sides of the mountain," he said.

Busing or some other kind of college-supported transportation was recommended as an option, and after the meeting Perey said he spoke with a representative from Prescott College recently about how the private institution could partner with YC.

"He mentioned that they've got a lot of vans, and they do bus students," he said. "It's being talked about."

Another audience member asked that the Certified Nursing Assistant program at least be left at Verde, since Verde Valley Medical Center and nursing homes in the area rely on it so heavily. Dorms were also mentioned, but Perey said enrollment does not justify that right now.

The enrollment would come if there was a residence hall, someone else contended, pointing out that the more programs are lost at the Verde campus, the lower enrollment would be.

Perey said if the nursing program were split in half, with Prescott students staying in Prescott, the Verde classes wouldn't be filled. A nursing professor in the audience said she'd never had more than a handful of Prescott students in one of her labs.

One member of the audience asked where an agriculture program would be placed at the Verde campus.

"This campus has approximately 80 acres south of us," Perey said. "We're still in the planning phase, so utilities, infrastructure, all those things will have to be planned out."

Going forward

Perey said the plan could change as the years progress. Right now, research projects the most growth to take place at the Prescott Valley campus, but Perey said this could evolve over the years.

Robert Oliphant, who resigned from the board last week, attended the meeting. Afterward, he said he and other community members like Clarkdale resident Ruth Wicks were forming an exploratory committee to determine whether the district could split to better serve the area.

The college is making its final decision on an enology professor. The final two candidates were interviewed Thursday, and should be onsite within the month, Perey said.

Easements through Cottonwood Ranch for a reclaimed water pipeline that would connect the college to the water treatment plant were also recently approved.

Follow the reporter on Twitter @ymgonzal

Taylor Waste
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