Gila Community College Dean Stephen Cullen announced two new vocational classes for Payson students at the board meeting on Feb. 20: cosmetology and medical billing.
Unlike the Coconino Community College, which this week announced an austerity plan, GCC has the resources to add vocational classes. The Flagstaff-based college board cited a loss of $3 million in state aid and the voter rejection of increased property taxes as the reason for gutting all vocational classes and eliminating all full-time staff for its Page campus.
In contrast, GCC has always gotten a fraction of the state aid as other districts — so wasn’t as badly hurt when the Legislature slashed funding several years ago. It has relied more heavily on local property taxes and tuition due to its status as a provisional community college. GCC also does not receive the equalization funds from the state as other rural districts like Coconino do.
Payson Cosmetology Program
Cullen originally thought the district couldn’t afford to start a program on the Payson campus due to the $102,847 cost for buildings plus $71,500 for installation of facilities and equipment.
However, two things made it possible to move forward quickly.
Cullen obtained $25,000 from the N.A.V.I.T. (Northern Arizona Vocational Institute of Technology) program to cover construction costs. He also got two old modular buildings from the county. Although the prefab buildings need some improvements, they’ll cost much less than new structures.
“I have been able to garner $25k from N.A.V.I.T., which reduces the amount to… significantly less,” said Cullen.
The N.A.V.I.T. program had extra money after discontinuing one of its programs.
The Gila County Board of Supervisors approved the offer of the two modular buildings on Feb. 4 after Supervisor Tommie Martin argued the program will teach local students valuable job skills.
“Community colleges’ strength is to provide students a trade,” she said.
Also to cut costs, the Payson Campus Dean Pam Butterfield would like to place the buildings with as little prep work as possible.
“The other issue has been the location where Dean Butterfield would like to have the cosmetology program placed,” said Cullen, “(But) soil compaction is not a problem.”
Cullen believes he could get the program up and running in the next three months.
Already, an informal poll by GCC staff indicates 36 Payson High School students are very interested in the program and another 55 would like to try it.
Butterfield has a qualified instructor ready to go and local salon owners hope the program will create a pool of employees.
Ultimately the Payson program will pay for itself by offering salon services. Already the Globe campus’ program makes enough from haircuts and manicures to be self-sustaining.
Cullen hopes board members will avail of the cosmetology services.
“I can’t wait to see you getting a haircut, Dr. Stephenson,” said Cullen.
Medical Billing Certification Program
In the world of health care, certified medical billers are always in demand.
Cullen said he has completed all approvals to start the medical billing program at GCC.
“We got the medical billing and coding certification training passed,” Cullen told the board. “The majority of certificate courses could be done online. It was a long and arduous process, but we finally have it approved to academic standards.”
Board member Larry Stephenson asked Cullen to clarify if the program would be offered in Payson as well as Globe since he only saw the class listed for the southern campus in the board agenda.
Cullen said that was because he had worked with the dean from Globe on that project, but the course would be district-wide.
“The medical advisors on the board are from Payson,” said Cullen.