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Mon, Sept. 23

Yavapai College president says partnerships are key to new growth

Yavapai College and county communities need to work together to keep the college and the area growing, said James Horton, the college's president.

Horton reminded the approximately 50 members of the college staff, town officials and community residents at a public forum Tuesday that, during the past 10 years, state aid to the college has dropped from about $5.8 million to about $4.5 million.

"Today the state funds 7 percent of our budget," he said.

At the same time, college enrollment has increased from about 2,900 students to 3,850 students.

The 16,155 credits YC students are taking this year compares with 10,961 credits in 1998-99, he said.

On top of the full- and part-time students, the college also offers courses through the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Its enrollment has increased from 1,072 in 2005-06 to 1,379 in 2007-08. Its Community Education (no-credit) enrollment jumped from 1,858 in 2006-07 to 1,912 in 2007-08.

"This shows we are meeting the needs of the community," Horton said.

He said the college also has also opened its 108,000-square-foot Career and Technology Center at the Prescott Airport.

The college has been able to survive the weakening economy, he said, because it has kept the non-faculty staff at the 2005 level and added 4,000 students.

Bob Lynch, administrative services vice president, said 30 credit hours equal one full-time student equivalent.

Horton said the college nursing program is a prime example of its financial problems. The state asked YC to double the nursing program, and it did. However, at the end of this year the state takes away $700,000 worth of support for it.

"We have 128 students graduating a year out of the nursing program," he said. "This is helping to meet the needs in the county."

The Yavapai College Foundation, Horton said, is looking at partnerships to make up this money.

Currently, members of the foundation are going around to the medical services in the county seeking a small assessment fee per patient to help finance the nursing program.

Horton also reminded those present of YC's partnership with Prescott Valley. "It is the perfect partnership; we are getting classrooms with a library right there," he said.

YC also is creating a new type of university in the county. Horton said Arizona has three research universities but no regional universities. Regional universities, he said, are cheaper and smaller.

"By partnering with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and Prescott College we can provide training for any kind of job between us," he said.

Horton said the college needs more partnerships with the towns and city to land more jobs in the quad-communities, he said.

Dan Garvey, Prescott College's president, asked if YC can increase tuition. Horton said it is increasing tuition $6 an hour to $58 per credit hour.

When tuition increases, Horton said the state requires that 25 percent of that money must go into a scholarship fund to help students.

He said 73 percent of the college's budget comes from local property taxes, 16 percent from tuition, and 7 percent from the state. Other resources make up the balance.

Tony Hamer, a community member, said the college needs to increase the amount coming from property taxes by cultivating more outside partnerships.

"I think you have only scratched the surface on the industries that want to come here," he said.

Horton agreed that the area needs new jobs.

Linda Cox suggested leveraging the state's assets to bring new green industry here.

Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett said that sounded like a great idea.

Hamer warned against increasing taxes too much.

Horton said YC absorbed $1.5 million in cuts in this year's budget. The nursing program's loss of $700,000 is "our real crisis," he said.

Christine Witbeck, nursing and allied health division's dean, said, "The $700,000 for nursing affects all the other programs in the college as the students take courses in them, also. Nursing has outgrown its facilities. We have classes spread across campus."

Horton said the college also is starting a radiology technician program. He expects 163 applicants for 10 spots. Witbeck said 5,000 people from the Phoenix area are on a waiting list for radiology tech programs.

Willard Fisher, a music instructor, said, "We need to get more businesses going so we can have our students run them.

"With the wind this area gets," he said, "why aren't we looking at windmills?" He also suggested that more people put in cisterns to catch the rainwater off their roofs. "This could really help our water situation and give our students jobs," he said.

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