2/20/2014 3:20:00 PM Commentary: Yavapai College serves Verde Valley students, businesses and economy
Some stakeholders have voiced concerns over Yavapai College resource equality.
By: Dr. Penny Wills Yavapi College President
"Yavapai College has been a life-changing experience for my family and me. Without the caring faculty at Yavapai College, the school would not be the extraordinary place it is, leading its students toward success. Being a student at Yavapai College has helped me grow as a person and a student. My experiences there confirm that it's a great college."
-- Hannah Shelley, Sedona resident and 2013 YC grad
Hannah is one of the many Verde Valley students that I've gotten to know in my time as president of Yavapai College. She's an inspiration to me and to all of us who are here for the sole purpose of providing quality, affordable education for all the people of Yavapai County. Yes, all the people.
Hannah's experience and statement stand in stark contrast to recent attempts in the Verde Valley to misrepresent the intentions of the college. Although Hannah took classes and graduated on the Clarkdale campus, she makes no distinction between one YC campus and another - she experienced Yavapai College.
We intend to maintain and enhance that experience for current and future students on the Verde Valley campus. The recently renovated campus features a modern library, a new student union, an art gallery and arts center, a learning center, a fitness center, the iconic Mabery Pavilion, up-to-date education technology, a robust data center, the Southwest Wine Center, state-of-the-art labs, beautiful landscaping, veterans programs and a friendly staff providing financial aid, counseling, tutoring and university transfer services.
Looking ahead, the University of Arizona has agreed to partner with the Verde campus on new agricultural programs. We are also working with UofA to develop sustainability partnerships to examine such issues as water and energy that are critical to Verde Valley's future. That's in addition to the strong partnerships that Yavapai College has with K-12 schools, including developing an International Baccalaureate program in the Verde Valley. All in all, the Verde Valley campus is well positioned for anticipated enrollment growth and would be ready and willing to take action to accommodate additional growth.
As we gathered data and opinions about the future healthcare needs of Yavapai County and Northern Arizona, it became clear that there was a need for a modern training center for future healthcare professionals. Unfortunately, the cost of equipment, educators and technology makes duplicating such training in multiple locations across the county prohibitive. Most of the county's population growth is projected to be in the Prescott Valley area, which is more central to county residents than either Prescott or Verde Valley. Given these facts and support from the four hospitals in the county, it seems reasonable that the planned Center for Excellence in Nursing and Allied Health would be targeted for that area of the county.
Questions about the apportionment of property taxes for Yavapai College miss the point, as well. The fact is that estimated property tax revenues from the Verde Valley have averaged $12.2 million a year for the past four years, and estimated expenses, operating and capital, have averaged $12.5 million. More importantly, taxes provide for the benefit of the larger community of which we're a part - Yavapai County, for instance. The "benefits" are not just what specific areas of the community get back, dollar for dollar, for the taxes they pay. Do reasonable taxpayers who don't use fire or police services begrudge the use of their taxes for these services? What if you seldom use the library? When there's an accident on the streets of Cottonwood or Sedona, do we check to see if the victims are taxpayers before sending emergency services? No, because we're a community that depends on services - higher education, now more than ever - that define and maintain a civilized, democratic, prosperous society.
So what are Verde Valley residents getting for their tax dollars? A sampling:
A modern, full-service, nationally accredited Verde Valley campus with room for growth;
Access to a host of academic programs taught by talented faculty from throughout the county;
In-class, hybrid and online academic courses that transfer to national and our state universities;
YC OLLI and community ed programs;
Dual credit classes at local high schools that allow students to earn college credits at no cost while still in high school;
Yavapai College's support for the Verde Valley's economic development with the Southwest Wine Center, the Regional Economic Development Center and the Small Business Development Center;
A presence that contributes to the quality of life in the Verde Valley and helps support property values.
There's much more, but I'd rather close with this comment from KAZM radio host Steve Williamson on a recent program:
"The community college has always provided inexpensive education, and I don't know how many stories I've heard about kids getting turned on to education at the Clarkdale campus of Yavapai College. Our son is an example. He went to the Clarkdale campus, was in a biology class. He had never really been interested in study and he had kind of had a revelation-'I like studying, I like learning.' He is now looking for a Ph.D. program. So it does work and that's one story, but when Mike [Cosentino] and I were walking around talking to folks, we heard a dozen of these stories about young people getting turned on to learning at the community college."
Dr. Penny Wills is the president of Yavapai College.