YC President Wills: Colleges 'pulling back because brick-and-mortar are fast going to online'

Penny Wills

Penny Wills

CAMP VERDE - When Yavapai College (YC) President Dr. Penny Wills visited the Camp Verde Town Council Sep. 21, the question on the minds of many but spoken by few was, "Where is Camp Verde's facility?"

Yavapai College update

Wills presented an overview of the college's district-wide educational as well as operational strategy.

She noted that students attending YC and then transferring to four-year institutions did better than four year students because "they have a better foundation."

One focus of the college is to make sure that students who enroll in YC go on to complete their program. Towards this end, the college is implementing a streamlining strategy whereby first-year students earn transferable credits towards their degree.

Wills also said she is charging her deans with coming-up with a variety of program deliveries as well as program methods in response to student's requests for more "hybrid" courses - - part online classes, part in-person instruction.

Also, the college is emphasizing partnerships with high schools through the Leadership, Education and Development (LEAD) program. LEAD bridges graduating seniors over the summer to keep them committed to college. Wills noted that, otherwise, "within six weeks, the family will talk them out of college."

While at the meeting, she distributed a Yavapai College Community Update publication providing news about the Verde Valley Campus in Clarkdale. Improvements include new maps, directories, and signs to aid navigation, as well as a new paved floor at the Mabery Pavilion to compliment lighting and landscape. The college's new partnership with the Valley Academy for Career and Technology Education (VACTE) was also highlighted.

Camp Verde questions

When the Call to the Public was made and not a peep was uttered, it was up to Council members Robin Whatley and Jackie Baker to voice their constituent's concerns. They were joined by Yavapai College District Governing Board member Deb McCasland, District 2.

"We have campuses in Prescott, Clarkdale, Chino Valley, Prescott Valley. I'm just wondering are there any plans for any building investment in Camp Verde?" asked Robin Whatley. "We are just off the freeway. We are within in an hour of most communities, including Payson and Flagstaff. I'm just wondering if there's any ideas, if anyone is talking about Camp Verde?"

Wills said, "We talk a lot about Camp Verde," then went on to explain the college's position.

"A little history. Many schools across the nation were brick-and-mortar in the 90's expansion. They are now pulling-back because brick and mortar are fast going to online," said Wills. "That is why we support The Verde Valley Regional Economic Organization (VVREO) to get broadband across the line."

Lack of widely-available broadband access has long hampered Camp Verde's efforts at encouraging enterprise in an increasingly technology-based society. However, according to Town Manager Russ Martin, the upcoming expansion of SR 260 will bring with it renewed parallel infrastructure, including broadband.

After discussing the college's focus on technical education to meet the demand for new workplace job skills, Wills was brought back to what was being done locally.

"What is available here at Camp Verde for changing jobs?" asked Council member Jackie Baker.

Wills responded that "most of our programs are available" but that she "applauded Joint Technical Educational Districts (JTEDs) because "high schools can't afford this stuff and neither can we, but maybe together we can." She went on to say that high school students would be able to earn college credits for courses such as fire science, media and welding.

Economic Development Director Steve Ayers added that the town was working on partnering with the college to expand student access in Camp Verde.

"We are working with the college's small business development to bring space into the library. It's a good partnership with student entrepreneurship," said Ayers.

Was the last word the first word?

Although she may not have had the last word, McCasland had the first opportunity to pre-empt Wills by giving council a brief overview of her reasons for running for re-election on the governing board.

"I've kept my promise to District 2. My opponent brags about how Prescott Valley and Yavapai College administration reached-out to him to encourage him to run. You know where his thoughts are," said McCasland.

"I believe in spending our money wisely. Coming up as line items on the budget will be a $9 million soccer complex and a $4.5 million lecture hall. I believe that would be much better spent in the Verde Valley with JTED programs and remote education centers," said McCasland.

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