County News

Whatever else can be said of Yavapai College’s investment in the Verde Valley, the topic produces interesting exchanges — a fact made clear during the Wednesday, July 13, meeting of the college’s Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee at The Collective Sedona Vista Hall in the Village of Oak Creek.

Committee Vice Chairman Bill Regner led the meeting, voicing criticism of Yavapai College’s lack of momentum in providing adequate course access to area residents. In addition, he questioned why members of the Yavapai College District Governing Board recently expressed confusion over what Verde Valley residents wanted the college to provide them.

“Whose job is it to determine a community’s needs?” Regner asked, adding that it is not within the scope of VVBAC’s power or responsibility to determine what prospective students desire from the college. “I think that’s the college’s job .... We need good data. The college has the money and the expertise. Use it.”

As a result of this perspective, Regner said that he would like to see the YCDGB advise the college to conduct a “professional survey and assessment of community needs.”

VVBAC Member Randy Garrison said that he thinks the college has “become non-relevant in serving the needs of the community,” and has put no real effort toward becoming relevant. According to Garrison, despite increased resources being put into Prescott-area programs and facilities, the college is still experiencing declining enrollment.

“Now, we’re building a career and technology college, and not a community college,” Garrison added of the proposed $3.8 million renovation of the Yavapai College Sedona Center, which the college claims will house a culinary program. Such an expansion of programs, Garrison said, ignores area students’ needs for core academic classes.

Regner countered, questioning whether the VVBAC possessed the expertise to evaluate how the college could achieve relevancy.

“When I came onto this board I was hearing these things,” VVBAC Member Al Filardo remarked. “I’m still hearing these things .... Please, guys, ask yourselves, in your communities, do you have a Sedona process? Look what’s happening in Sedona. Programs are coming in.”

According to Filardo, who is also a YCDGB member, citizens in Sedona are dictating how the Sedona Center is being renovated — a virtually unheard-of opportunity for locals to shape the way its post-secondary institution operates, he said.

“That’s a good process,” Filardo said.

Regner asserted that Sedona’s recent gains have come by way of a “public relations nightmare” for Yavapai College. When the institution proposed selling the Sedona Center, the community banded together to prevent the sale, using what Regner called a “unique combination of capital” to achieve its goals. Such capital, he added, is not available to every community.

“I certainly don’t see unincorporated communities having the leverage of Sedona,” VVBAC member Carolyn Fisher said. “I don’t know how you create that kind of leverage.”

“All I’m saying is, we have an example of what’s working,” Filardo answered. “Don’t sell yourself short. You have leverage .... What is happening is that you guys are doing a good job, whether you know it or not.”

For all his optimism, Filardo added that there will be more problems ahead for the college — both in the Verde Valley and system wide. According to him, projections of a 15 to 17 percent reduction in enrollment loom large for the coming year: “What that means is a cutting of funding because there’s not enough people registered.”

In order to combat the potential cuts, Filardo urged the VVBAC and residents of the Verde Valley to promote the college, helping to increase enrollment.


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