College Suffers More Double Talk

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Big tuition increase. Big enrollment drop. Gee: Who would’a figured? Anyway you look at it, the latest enrollment figures from Gila Community College (GCC) are depressing.

But what did you expect after the distant Eastern Arizona College taskmasters forced a big tuition increase this semester, to balance a budget they still won’t explain.

The increase left GCC with the highest tuition in the state for full-time students while also eliminating free tuition for seniors.

The result — a 26 percent drop in full-time enrollment, mostly among seniors. Seniors now account for 38 percent of the enrollment instead of 50 percent.

Interestingly, Payson’s enrollment dropped just 11 percent, while Globe’s plunged 36 percent.

Of course, our EAC overlords still won’t tell the GCC board whether the college actually lost money on the tuition increase by losing more state aid for the students who quit than it gained from the students who paid the higher fees.

As usual, EAC wouldn’t provide comprehensible figures, continuing a long tradition of arrogance and inefficiency. Please note, EAC rakes off the top 25 percent of everything Gila Community College collects, but near as we can tell, all local taxpayers get for those payments is double talk and disrespect.

Still, we’re optimists by nature.

So we did glean one small scrap of encouragement. GCC Board Chairman Bob Ashford — EAC’s almost slavish water carrier — pronounced himself “extremely upset” about the situation.

Who knows, maybe those numbers will finally rouse the Globe-dominated GCC board to unite with the two Payson-area representatives to insist on a much better deal in the lopsided contract with EAC.

Perhaps board members will finally insist with a single voice that EAC stop treating them like children. For instance, the enrollment report showed the number of seniors dropped 14 percent while enrollment increased in all other age groups. Yet the full-time enrollment dropped 26 percent. How does that make any sense at all?

We hope this latest absurdity will prompt the GCC board to insist that EAC provide the budget figures needed to make a rational decision about tuition — especially since we’re paying a million dollars a year to EAC for paperwork it refuses to provide.

We all drink from same bucket

Foolish fellow came along — got him a bucket of water. He’s thinkin’, gotta hide that water — keep it safe, so one can get it. So he digs him a hole, pours that water in that hole, laughing all crazy to himself. They’ll never find it now, he chortled.

Foolish fellow — got no water at all. Because water goes where it will, always running downhill, never standing still.

So we applaud the latest small hopeful sign that after years of needless conflict, Rim Country officials have come to understand that when it comes to water — we must all drink from the same bucket.

Specifically — we congratulate Payson on working with Brooke Utilities to provide water for unincorporated Mesa del Caballo, where last summer wells ran dry. The water company wound up hauling tanker trucks of water from water-strapped Gisela.

Payson has plenty of water at the moment, so it makes perfect sense to sell Mesa del the water it needs, delivered through a temporary pipeline. The arrangement builds a relationship and gives Brooke Utilities time to cut a deal with the Salt River Project to secure rights to Blue Ridge water for the 400 homeowners in that community.

The proposal follows Payson’s equally far-sighted offer to negotiate a settlement of water disputes with neighboring Star Valley, which will gain a backup water supply, access to a water main along the highway, an agreement to limit groundwater pumping and the legal status it needs to secure rights to Blue Ridge water.

Payson leaders seem to understand economic growth of the whole region depends in large measure in getting out the message that we have a secure, long-term water supply. We can’t send out that message if some neighborhoods end up hauling water every summer.

So we applaud any initiative that makes rational, efficient use of that most vital resource, without getting hung up on artificial boundaries.

Of course, if Payson voters on Tuesday reject Home Rule, then Payson won’t have the spending authority to even operate its own water department — much less build the Blue Ridge pipeline.

But don’t worry.

Surely we don’t got so many foolish fellas here — throwing away even their bucket in such a thirsty land.

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