Survey Asks, 'What Does The Community Want From College?'

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Opinions are being solicited in a communitywide study to assess higher education needs of Rim Country residents.

The Northern Gila County Higher Education Needs Assessment (HENA) is a three level project.

First, focus groups and individuals will participate in surveys.

"HENA is looking at two basic things," survey architect Peter Kettner said. "We'd like to know from the people themselves why there isn't that close affinity between the people of the town and their college the way there is in other college towns. The second major thrust is what (classes) do people want?"

Phase I surveys are already underway.

The needs of six populations are being assessed:

  • Seniors and adult learners (chaired by former mayor Barbara Brewer)
  • The business community (chaired by Cliff Potts and Barbara Ganz, director of Payson Regional Economic Development Corporation)
  • High school students and the adults they interact with on and off campus (chaired by Sue Myers, superintendent for Payson Unified School District)
  • The Tonto Apache Tribe
  • Arts and cultural community
  • Work force

Representatives of the Payson Senior center, Senior Circle and area churches met yesterday to give their views.

The needs assessment will build on what the Building Bridges to Business study already identified -- that a trained and educated work force is a major challenge to Payson companies and the college is a key to having educational opportunities for their workers and their own families.

"The business community is extremely receptive to this survey," Ganz said.

All juniors and seniors in English classes at Payson High School were given a survey.

"The students (over 200) took it very seriously," said Myers. "There were written comments in almost every section. So, I think when we get through reading them we will find out some good things."

Counselors, administrators and teachers were given a survey and Myers said she is hoping parents of juniors and seniors will pick up a survey at parent-teacher conferences later this week.

"If anyone wants to fill one out, they should certainly contact me at the district office," Myers said.

A focus group with 12 Advanced Placement English students is planned.

On Saturday, the arts and culture group is getting together.

Larry Stevenson and Don Crowley have been in touch with Sabrina Campbell of the Tonto Apache tribe.

"We know there is a disconnect between many of the people in Payson and the college, especially at the high school, but we've been told now that it is in the work force, too," Kettner said.

"One of the hardest groups to reach are the members of the work force," Crowley said.

One of the ways Kettner and Crowley hope to reach them is by putting a survey up on Citizens for Better Payson government Web site: www.betterpayson.org

Contact information is optional on the one page survey.

The meat of the survey asks what courses would best address each person's educational needs relating to salary and career advancement or career changes.

The second part of the needs assessment will begin after the initial data has been collected. Then models will be developed proposing courses both needed and wanted, funding for facilities, equipment and faculty necessary to implement such courses.

The third and final phase will be a town hall meeting complete with PowerPoint presentations of HENA results, and committees holding discussion sessions and publication of a final report.

This is the first time such an in-depth survey of the community has been done by the college.

The project's expected completion is December or January. People interested in participating may call (928) 472-7001.

-- To reach Carol La Valley call 474-5251 ext. 122 or e-mail clavalley@payson.com.

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