Gila Community College Provisional District: History repeats itself

Does no one remember what happened with the College in 2002, when the Board of Supervisors decided not to contract with Eastern Arizona College? The operation shut down on June 30, 2002 and 200 full-time and part-time people lost their jobs, most of whom were not called back to work when the Board of Supervisors contracted with Pima Community College for educational services. Pima Community College provided classes for the next 3 years at a higher tuition rate and no senior citizen scholarships. Programs were lost, fewer classes were offered, and the enrollment was at an all-time low. Pima Community College was paid $1 million a year regardless of the number of students and classes.

On July 1, 2005 the Board of Supervisors once again contracted with Eastern Arizona College, which resulted in lower tuition, the return of senior citizen scholarships, reopening the Wellness Centers and return of needed programs. Enrollment nearly doubled the first year. The second year the nursing program started in Globe and the year after in Payson. New programs continue to be added as identified, and enrollment has continued to grow under our partnership with Eastern Arizona College.

And now we are once again looking for a new partner, which the Governing Board thinks will help lead to establishing our own Community College District. At the meeting to discuss why the Governing Board wants to establish this District, all I heard was because the taxpayers of Gila County want this, and because the Board is not allowed to talk to College personnel. How do they know this is what the taxpayers want when the decision was made behind closed doors with no input from the taxpayers? What I didn’t hear, which greatly concerns me, is how becoming our own District will benefit the students and the community. Students should always be the College’s number one priority.

I am also concerned about the consulting staff. There is an Interim President, an IT person and a Human Resources person. But it seems to me that a key person missing from this lineup is a Fiscal Officer, someone who can project costs based on enrollment and can identify the true costs of running a college.

So it really comes down to whether a new partner will be beneficial or detrimental, whether Gila County can afford to become their own District and, most importantly, if it will benefit the students and our community. Let’s see a detailed plan so we know if it is feasible. Let’s have no more behind the door decisions.

Margo Bracamonte

Retired Senior Dean, Gila Community College Provisional District

Globe, Az.