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Fri, Sept. 20

Yavapai College cuts Elderhostel program

PRESCOTT - After 26 years of operation, Yavapai College is doing away with its Elderhostel program.

President Jim Horton made the announcement at the district governing board's meeting Tuesday afternoon.

"I have made the decision to cease our involvement with the Elderhostel program," he said with a solemn look on his face.

Horton said Elderhostel is a $3 million per year business operation that is nationwide, and for the past two years, Yavapai College has subsidized its operations.

"We just cannot use local funding to subsidize what is, in effect, a national project," Horton said.

The program will officially cease operations Dec. 31, he continued.

Elderhostel, which uses field education and the environment as the classroom, caters to people 50 years and older.

Director of Communication Sue Sammarco said the college employed five full-time and three part-time staff members, as well as 45 people in the field that acted as tour guides, for the Elderhostel program. She said the college is trying to find other positions within the institution for those people, but "they're not going to be able to do that with 100 percent of the staff," she said.

The college also provided the Elderhostel employees with a severance package. Sammarco said the main issue revolved around how most of Elderhostel's students were from out-of-state, and the local college had to pick up the bill.

"Elderhostel controlled the fees, and we (Yavapai College) was not able to increase the fees (because it is a national program)," she said. "Yavapai College, for all these years, has been a host for this program, and we've incurred all the costs and risks for these programs."

Yet, Sammarco said Yavapai College will continue to run its Life Long Learner programs, Edventures, and its community education programs.

"I think (the decision) is justified and it's an appropriate action. I feel sad for the staff," Dennis Garvey, the dean of the division of lifelong learning, said. "It had a good run and it's just not viable any longer."

In addition to the announcement about Elderhostel, Horton announced that the state legislature wants to cut funds to community colleges around Arizona. Therefore, Yavapai College will need to try to hang onto whatever it has.

The other Yavapai College Governing Board members agreed that severing ties with Elderhostel was probably the best thing to do, especially considering the direction of the state at this time.

"There's no question in my mind, for the good of the institution, it's the best thing to do," Horton said.

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