Rim country residents who want to attend the new Gila County Community College can begin registering for classes Monday.
The fall semester will start Sept. 16 following approval of an agreement with Pima Community College District to replace Eastern Arizona College. The Payson campus will be called the Rim Country Center.
"A schedule of classes will be available by Monday," Gila County Community College Programs Provost Barbara Ganz said. "We've done all the background work, and we're ready to go."
Gila County parted ways with EAC last month when the board of supervisors voted unanimously not to approve a new one-year contract. The county is required by state law to partner with another community college district to operate the Payson and Globe campuses and the Hayden/Winkelman and San Carlos education centers because it does not meet state requirements to form a regular community college district of its own.
New employment opportunities will also be available at the Payson and Globe campuses according to Ganz. Openings will be posted on the PCCD website (www.pima.edu) and will be advertised in the Payson Roundup.
The Gila County Board of Supervisors approved the new agreement Tuesday and the Pima Community College District Board of Governors made it official by unanimously approving the agreement Wednesday evening in Tucson.
The choice of PCCD will bring expanded academic opportunities to Gila County, Ganz said.
"They have many more courses, certificates and degree programs that can be brought to Gila County."
An example, Ganz said, is an entire travel and tourism degree program that will eventually be available to Gila County students on the Internet.
Because the fall semester, which is starting several weeks late, will only last 13 weeks, classes will run longer to make up for the lost time.
"The state as well as the accrediting agency requires a (specific) number of minutes per semester, so what we did was increase the number of minutes per session," Ganz said. "Instead of a 50 minute hour, we will have a 65 minute hour for just the fall semester."
Since Gila Community College will follow the policies and guidelines of Pima Community College, Ganz said students can expect changes in tuition structure and other areas, including:
A tuition increase from $32 per credit hour to $39.
The EAC 2-6 credit hour tuition plateau does not exist at PCC, but Pima has a 13-18 credit hour plateau to encourage students to attend full-time.
Senior citizens taking courses will also have to pay tuition.
"However, we have plans to create something special and unique to address the educational needs of our senior population, including the wellness center," Ganz said. "We actually plan to enhance the offerings, but to do it in a different way."
Northern Arizona University, which operates one of its 26 statewide sites at the Payson campus, has been invited to remain and has agreed to do so. Dr. Gary Moore, local NAU program coordinator, hopes the agreement with PCCD will impact his operation in a positive way.
"We had our regular summer sessions and we're continuing to register for our fall semester which starts the week of Aug. 26," Moore said. "I'm optimistic that Pima will bring in more programs, and thus more students will take advantage of the greater diversity of courses that Pima offers that are more consistent with our 16 undergraduate degree programs and our six masters degree programs."
Representatives from PCCD were at the Payson and Globe campuses Thursday to begin training the local staffs in the Pima Community College computer system and procedures.
The agreement with Gila County is part of an initiative by PCCD to provide expanded services to counties that do not meet the requirements to form districts of their own.
"Pima Community College is looking at being a flagship institution in working with unorganized counties (a term used by the state for counties that do not have their own community college district)," Ganz said. "They provide this service to Santa Cruz County and now they have added Gila."
A major operational difference from the previous agreement with EAC is that Ganz will report to the Gila County Board of Supervisors and not to PCCD.
The new phone number at the Payson campus is 468-8039, and information is also available at www.gilaccc.org. The NAU number at the Payson campus is 474-5147.
Cost of higher learning
Because Pima Community College's tuition structure is higher than EAC's, Gila County students will now pay $39 per credit hour instead of $32. This means a full-time student taking 15 credit hours at the Rim Country Center will pay $585 per semester instead of $480. By comparison, tuition at the state's four-year institutions is $131 per credit hour or $1,268 per semester for full-time students.