Before the new Payson campus of Eastern Arizona College opened in January 2000, a common complaint among students was the high number of classes that were canceled for lack of enrollment.
Now students worry about whether there will be room in the classes they want to take.
It's only a year old, and already the new EAC-Payson campus on the northeast corner of Mud Springs Road and Highway 260 is bursting at the seams.
"How fast we've outgrown our new facility is the single biggest surprise I've had since we opened," Priscilla Zuber, assistant dean, said.
The parking lot is often full, and Monday and Wednesday evenings during the 2001 spring semester, the college literally ran out of classrooms. To accommodate scheduled classes, the community room and a conference room had to be pressed into service.
During that semester, more than 1,000 students signed up for classes at EAC-Payson.
"Of course that's all students, but the number of full-time students is steadily increasing as well," Zuber said.
And while there are no figures available on the average age of those enrolled at the Payson campus, instructors have noticed an influx of students just out of high school.
"Payson kids are starting to see this campus as a very attractive option as a place to begin their higher education," Zuber said.
That means the college is becoming increasingly multi-generational.
"The fact that people of all ages can come together to share their experiences in an educational setting is becoming one of our true strengths," she said.
The $2.5 million, 21,000-square-foot complex features four buildings that were designed to blend with a wooded, 50-acre site. Those buildings, which surround a courtyard that is a popular gathering place for students, house two full computer labs, a science lab, an art lab, a wellness center, a student lounge, a community room, an administration/registration center and eight regular classrooms. Northern Arizona University also has an administrative office and an interactive TV classroom on the campus.
The college employs more than 40 full- and part-time instructors who teach an ever-increasing array of courses leading to associate of art degrees in liberal studies, elementary education, business administration and computer science; associate of science degrees in computer information, general business and office technology; and certificates for office assistant, bookkeeping, computer science, medical assistant-front office, medical transcription and office technology.
General tuition for six credit hours or less is $62. The cost to attend full time, which is 12 or more credit hours, is $374. In comparison, full-time tuition at the state's three major universities, Arizona State, University of Arizona and NAU, is about $1,000 per semester.
EAC-Payson also has one of the most attractive policies for senior citizens in the state. People who are 55 years of age and older, and who have been Arizona residents for at least a year, can take classes free of charge.
During the past year, additions to the course schedule have included gardening, short story writing and several new computer offerings including QuickBooks, Microsoft PowerPoint, Microsoft Access 2000 and Microsoft Excel. More than 40 students are taking a new gardening class, which emphasizes hands-on xeriscaping techniques.
Rim country residents can call Zuber at 474-2224 to make course requests.
"We will research the request to make sure there is an interest, see if it's in our course bank and if we can find a qualified instructor, and hopefully add it to our schedule," she said.
A free Sunday afternoon lecture series that has already featured archaeology and poetry presentations by EAC-Payson instructors will be expanded, she said. A fall art film series, which was introduced in 2000, was also successful and will be continued, she said.