Continuing a long-standing “save, then build” tradition, Northland Pioneer College’s governing board unanimously took the first step in a proposed expansion process by allocating $20 million of those savings for projects on the Show Low – White Mountain Campus during its Oct. 16 regular meeting.
By “saving, then building,” county taxpayers do not pay interest on capital improvement indebtedness. Since 2008, the college district has not had a secondary property tax to pay for capital improvement bonds. NPC was able to build the Skills Center on the Holbrook campus and the Aspen Center, and major parking lot improvements on the Show Low campus using savings rather than bonds.
“The first step in the process is setting aside the funds,” NPC’s Chief Business Officer Maderia Ellison told the board. “We are in the process of evaluating the options of what and how to build. Those decisions will be forthcoming, but have not been made.”
“We’ve moved from ‘should we do this’ to ‘how do we do this’,” added President Mark Vest. A series of board retreats in the coming months will feature conversations on how best to proceed.
Board members Frank Lucero and James Matteson toured NPC’s facilities in Show Low in September. Staff members presented several options for providing more classrooms for nursing and allied health programs; consolidation of welding, automotive and metal arts programs from the city’s industrial park onto the main campus; stabilizing the foundation of the current Learning Center; and minor remodeling of two other buildings to better serve students. No decisions have been made on exactly what will be included in the expansion project.
In other actions, the board authorized the purchase of the equipment building and property lease for the college’s telecommunications tower on Greens Peak. Used since the 1970s, the tower serves as a critical hub for the college’s network. Owning the building will allow installation of a larger generator and more equipment to improve reliability in adverse weather conditions.
NPC will continue to be a partner in the Regional Connector Transit Service between Show Low and Holbrook. The board approved a two-year renewal of the intergovernmental agreement which utilizes a grant from the Arizona Department of Transportation to provide the bus service between three of NPC’s communities. President Vest noted the City of Winslow is pursuing a possible grant to connect with the transit service in Holbrook and extend into Flagstaff.
The board also welcomed Elias Jouen, finance director for the City of Winslow, to the board, representing district 2. Navajo County School Superintendent Jalyn Gerlich appointed Jouen to serve until the November 2020 general election, following the resignation of member George Joe.
NPC will utilize supplemental funding under the TALON Project federal grant to purchase two virtual anatomy visualization tables to pilot offering laboratory science classes via the distance learning network. Rickey Jackson, interim vice president for Learning and Student Services, explained the visualization technology would give students in remote locations access to a hands-on lab science course needed to meet general education degree requirements. A pilot group will test the anatomy visualization tables next fall, with a possible full roll-out planned for spring 2020.
Renell Heister, TALON Project director, explained that ASU and a number of medical schools are already using the anatomy visualization tables in their science labs. These revolutionary teaching tools enable students to virtually dissect, examine, manipulate and explore human cadavers. Because they operate on a virtual plane, students can interact with them, then use and reuse the virtual cadavers.
Jeremy Raisor, director of Enrollment Services, updated the board on progress being made to improve the financial aid award process. NPC is installing software that will automate much of the review and approval process, reducing the time from application to award from 6 to 8 weeks to one week.
Raisor said the current process is dependent upon the student responding to the request to provide additional information. “If the student is slow to respond, or provides the incorrect document, it slows the process,” he explained. The new software checks submitted documents, and sends reminders to the applicant if a specific document is needed. This frees up financial aid staff to work more one-on-one with applicants and get them through the process more quickly.
Nine NPC Friends and Family scholarships for the spring semester are now open for applicants. The newest scholarship honors retired NPC President Dr. Jeanne Swarthout. “In lieu of retirement gifts, Jeanne wanted funds to go to a scholarship for students,” Betsyann Wilson, executive director of the nonprofit organization, explained to the board. The scholarship will award $1,000 per semester to one successful applicant. The deadline to apply for Friends and Family scholarships is November 15.
Friends & Family has also completed their audit, which showed growth in endowed scholarships. Wilson has applied to the Del Webb Foundation for a grant to help NPC construction students purchase tools needed on the job. Board member Matteson encouraged contacting other building trades organizations for scholarship and grant assistance.
Ken Wilk, NPC construction program coordinator and curriculum specialist, said they have reached out to the state’s builders association for support. Wilk told the board about an open house at the Whiteriver Center, where 20 construction students proudly displayed their work on a tiny home that will be used by cadets at NPC’s Northeastern Arizona Law Enforcement Academy (NALETA) in Taylor.
Wilk also explained his new role as curriculum specialist, working with NPC faculty, the statewide transfer system and the 40 Articulation Task Forces to ensure NPC credits transfer to other state community colleges and universities.
College officials will be making an initial presentation to the Navapache School Superintendents to create a technology consortium to continue the TALON Project when the grant expires. TALON is using technology to deliver college-level courses at rural high schools. As high school districts struggle to employ teachers with master’s degrees in mathematics, English, Spanish and social sciences, NPC has been using a federal grant to supply college course instruction in those subjects at 14 area high schools. The consortium would provide the funding to sustain the outreach into the high schools.
President Vest asked to delay discussion on how to implement state-mandated policies on free expression. The community college presidents are awaiting a Maricopa District-led draft procedure that satisfies the new state statute.
In response to board questions about community colleges offering bachelor’s degree, Vest suggested the board meet with the college’s lobbyist to develop a legislative strategy to allow rural community colleges to offer four-year bachelor’s degrees in certain fields in high demand in rural areas, such as nursing, public administration, education, business and emergency medical services.
The next regularly-scheduled meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 20, in the Tiponi Community Center on the Holbrook – Painted Desert Campus, 2251 E. Navajo Blvd. Copies of the agenda will be posted online, www.npc.edu/board-meeting-agendas-minutes, at least 24 hours in advance.