Flagstaff, Ariz. - Coconino Community College officials are considering transferring ownership of CCC's Williams building to the Williams Unified School District.
“The College’s commitment to meet the higher education needs of our communities remains strong, but that promise must also be balanced with remaining fiscally responsible,” said CCC President Dr. Leah L. Bornstein. “As state aid has declined over the past four years, CCC’s extremely low property tax rate has been highlighted even more – not giving the College many choices for sustainability.”
State funding for community colleges has dwindled over the past decade. In 1999, state funding comprised about 44 percent of CCC's general operating budget. In 2012, state aid dropped to 11 percent. CCC pays about $40,000 annually in maintenance fees for the Williams building.
“The Williams campus was a well-intended idea that never came to fruition,” Bornstein said. “We need every penny focused on instruction and we can’t afford to maintain a building without enrolled students.”
The building has been underutilized for a variety of reasons. Enrollment in CCC classes in Williams has been significantly lower than both the College and the high school anticipated. Many Williams High School graduates attend CCC, but prefer to attend classes at the College’s main campus in Flagstaff, due to the additional amenities associated with a larger campus, social atmosphere including student clubs and the opportunity to meet new people.
Also, the larger availability of online classes offered through CCC allows greater flexibility for Williams residents to take College courses at home and at their convenience. CCC remains committed to serving the students and residents of Williams in ways that are convenient, cost-effective, and in the manner they prefer.
CCC officials have said the Williams building would be better utilized by the community if the school district assumes ownership.
"We see this as a continued investment into the Williams community that will allow the high school to offer additional career and technical and dual enrollment classes," Bornstein said. "It is our hope that those offerings will encourage more high school students to enroll at CCC after graduation."
Williams Superintendent Rachel Savage said she is supportive of taking ownership of the building, which was built on school district property in 2002, next to Williams High School, because it will allow her staff to develop additional high school course offerings. Williams school district officials have already begun a survey to eighth grade and high school students to gage their interest in what type of Career and Technical Education (CTE) they would like to see come to the high school.
"We can start with new classes in the fall and move toward growing our CTE and possibly create a Science, Technology, Math, Engineering (STEM) Center," Savage said. "My main goal was to be visionary and look five, ten years down the road and to consider how our math, science and technology needs will grow and be prepared for them."
The Williams School Board agreed to amend the original lease agreement on Feb. 13. The agreement still has to be approved by the CCC District Governing Board, whose next meeting is Feb. 26. Also included in the agreement, is that the school district will continue to allow the College to use the Williams campus without charge, at times mutually agreeable and approved for classes, student activities, board or committee meetings and other functions.
Several Williams school board members said they saw the agreement as an opportunity for the district.
"This could be a plus to the district," said school board member Bud Parentau. "It's an opportunity we don't want to pass up.”