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Attend forum to ask college officials to justify decisions
Written by Christopher Fox Graham   
Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00

On Thursday, March 20, the League of Women Voters Greater Verde Valley hosts a forum on Yavapai College’s 10-year master plan and proposed capital improvements.

The League, perhaps the most respected nonpartisan political organization in the country, is hosting the forum from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at the Sedona Public Library, 3250 White Bear Road.

Yavapai College has been on a public relations blitz since February when the board posted the new 10-year plan and communities in the Verde Valley erupted in protest. I have received and published more press releases in the last two months than I usually get in a year from the college.

Managing Editor Christopher Fox GrahamYet, the board college officials and Marketing and Communication Director Mike Lange blew off a meeting with our staff they themselves asked for and will not reply to our demands for hard numbers to make any rational sense of a plan that basically tells Verde Valley residents, “Thanks for your property tax money, now go away and don’t ask any questions.”

On March 4, the Yavapai College District Governing Board brought its regularly-scheduled meeting to the Sedona campus. Typically these meetings are lightly attended with maybe one or two speakers from the public addressing the board before its members turn to their regular agenda. Residents and local elected officials packed the meeting, with 22 speakers asking the board to reexamine the 10-year plan and voicing their opposition to college administrative decisions to steal our existing programs and move them to Prescott.

The speakers asked the board not to close and sell the Sedona Center for Arts and Technology. The public also strongly objected to the board’s decision to move the nursing program to Prescott, making it cost-prohibitive for young people and working parents, especially single parents, to become nurses.

The one thing the college won’t or can’t steal is our strong viticulture program, because the private commercial wine industry is already established in the Verde Valley … and because grapes don’t grow in Prescott.

For instance, Yavapai College closed the Camp Verde campus in 2010, denying residents a local campus to improve their educations but broke ground March 10 on a new Prescott tennis court facility — costing $1.3 million — because it’s apparently a better use of tax money.

The college’s rationale for this realignment is bewildering. Based on Yavapai College’s own numbers, campus headcount has been falling steadily to below 12,000 since a peak of 16,312 students in the 2006-07 school year — before the Great Recession, so the economic downtown is not the cause. Colleges measure numbers with full-time student equivalent, or FTSE, which has dropped by half at the Prescott campuses since 2009 from nearly 3,000 to under 1,500 and fallen similarly at the Clarkdale campus from 690 to under 300. Online enrollment, however, has kept Yavapai’s numbers relatively steady, around 4,000 FTSE for the last five years. If the growth is in online students while students physically on campus are tumbling, the last thing Yavapai College should be investing in is facilities in Prescott Valley for students who don’t yet exist.

Yavapai College’s real asset to students is physical proximity. If the college wants to pursue online education, there are hundreds of competitors nationwide who have been doing it better and longer.

There are 38,000 people in Prescott Valley, 40,000 in Prescott and 25,000 in outlying areas. The Verde Valley is home to 77,000 people. Why does the Prescott side of Mingus Mountain get $103 million in projects while we get a little more than $2 million?

Does the college teach math anymore, or was that program eliminated, too?

Taxpayers and residents can ask Yavapai College officials questions in Sedona on Thursday. See you there.

Christopher Fox Graham

Managing Editor

 

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