Help Keep Our College Students In Rim Country

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The greatest gift a generation can give those who follow is education -- kindergarten-through-college education.

For that benevolence to become a reality in Payson, Gila Community College must soon become a fully accredited, funded and recognized institution.

Because GCC is now considered a "provisional college," it can only issue degrees and diplomas by contracting with other community colleges around the state. That means many local students are opting to leave Payson to study at community colleges in Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale, Glendale and Thatcher. Those students leaving the Rim country are some of our finest young people. They are the contributors to society, the ambitions, the intellectual, the motivated and the future of our town.

To keep them here, they must have the opportunity to continue their post-high school education knowing their class credits are transferable and they can eventually earn degrees.

Those credits and degrees will lead to better paying jobs, a vigorous economy and a more prosperous town.

The money now allocated to GCC by the Legislature is not sufficient to allow the college to meet the needs of our community.

In fact, the funding the school receives borders on the ridiculous. Of the $143,615,000 state funding allocated to Arizona's community colleges for 2005, GCC did not receive a penny.

What makes the school's financial situation even more bleak was the Arizona State Treasurer's erroneous decision to continue to withhold more than $1 million in tuition reimbursement payments from the county's transaction privilege tax after the GCC provisional district was formed.

It took an opinion from Attorney General Terry Goddard for GCC to eventually have the money refunded.

A hard-working planning committee made up of GCC President Barbara Ganz, GCC governing board president Peter Kettner, Gila County Legislative liaison Steve Besich and Payson Regional Economic Director Scott Flake are battling to ensure Gila County will someday receive fair and equitable funding for its college.

The committee has met with Rep. Bill Konopnicki and asked for his support. The committee also hopes to soon have the support of Speaker of the House Jake Flake and Senator Jack Brown.

It would behoove those legislators to back the efforts of the committee and become a moving force in ensuring Gila County students have the opportunity for the high-quality education they deserve.

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