Tired of sitting by the phone like a wallflower waiting for something to happen, Gila Community College (GCC) has convened a committee to work with the state’s universities to help students earn quick, inexpensive college degrees.
The committee wants to work with the state’s three Arizona universities on curriculum coordination, transferring credits, and program development. The committee also wants to prepare for a possible university campus in Payson.
“What we’re trying to accomplish, if a four-year college may eventually come up here, is to work with them as an equal partner,” said GCC board member and committee head Tom Loeffler.
The committee is spearheading a change in GCC policy. Instead of waiting for whatever colleges offer, the community college will now try to develop as many ways as possible for Payson kids to stay in town and work toward a four-year degree. The effort could also draw outside students to vocational programs like GCC’s nursing program, which have long waiting lists for admission in the Valley and elsewhere.
Loeffler has gathered a committee of citizens from Globe and Payson to brainstorm partnership opportunities the community college can offer. The committee also hopes to improve relationships with the Rim Country Educational Alliance SLE. The GCC board and the SLE board for a time found themselves at cross-purposes with GCC board members, questioning some of the provisions in Gila County’s sale to the Alliance of land adjacent to the GCC campus.
Quite aside from future relations with the Education Alliance, the new GCC committee will work to streamline a college degree for local students through existing programs.
Already the three Arizona universities have several programs in place to help students lower the cost of earning a bachelor’s degree by completing the first two or even three years of classes at their local community college. Students save by living at home.
The group Loeffler has pulled together includes James Quinlan, the English department chair at the Payson GCC campus and very likely a new Payson Unified School District board member; Jim Clayton, a retired professor from the Arizona State University (ASU) School of Business and his wife Michelle, a software expert from Intel. The committee also includes Payson resident John Weston, who has a military background and now works for Walmart in the human resources department.
From Globe, Loeffler has recruited Kim Trent, a doctor and the Globe campus technology administrator.
The committee still has room for more advisors, however. Loeffler has spots open for another Globe citizen and an instructor from the Pueblo campus of GCC.
The group has divided up the three universities according to contacts and experience each member has with a university.
Since Clayton worked at ASU as a professor, he has offered to help create effective communication with the large institution.
“With large institutions, trying to deal with one individual with large programs is difficult to accomplish,” he said. “I would think if we are trying to build a relationship (with individual programs), we should talk to the dean of that school.”
Last year, ASU initiated a program with GCC that guarantees a student admission into ASU in the degree program they wish to pursue.
Northern Arizona University (NAU) has a similar program called EAC to NAU.
As a former alumnus of NAU, Quinlan made a presentation to the committee on the benefits to students.
“With NAU, you have access to 400 plus degrees,” he said.
Loeffler has met with an outreach administrator from the University of Arizona (U of A).
“The U of A stresses it’s a partnership,” said Loeffler. “It’s not how the university comes down and says ‘this is the way it’s going to be.’”