Commentary: College's dual enrollment program hardly an example of not caring about the Verde Valley

Yavapai College has become the most popular whipping boy in the Verde Valley.

You hear it all the time: The college does not care about the Verde Valley. Students in the Verde are getting shortchanged. It's all about Prescott.

At the same time, the college has embraced a program that puts such a high premium on providing local students an education that it very well could be shooting itself in the foot at collecting tuition from those same students.

It's called the dual-enrollment program. If a high school student from Mingus, Camp Verde or Sedona-Red Rock is ambitious enough, they can earn enough college credit hours that they can head straight to a university and completely bypass Yavapai College but still have all the benefits of having attended.

And they don't have to spend a dime.

In fact, over the past three years, Mingus, Camp Verde and Sedona-Red Rock high school students have earned 6,939 hours of college credits through the dual enrollment program. In Yavapai College tuition dollars, that amounts to $555,010, which if transferred to an in-state university suddenly jumps to more than $2 million in saved tuition dollars.

Camp Verde High School Principal Bob Weir said some CVHS graduating seniors have left high school with as many as 24 college credits. Another finished high school with 15 credits of college math classes and was able to immediately go into a Calculus 3 class in college. Fire Science and CNA students have received their certifications and were able to begin working in the field immediately after graduation.

Superintendent Paul Tighe said Mingus students have tripled the number of dual enrollment credit hours earned over the past three years.

"The dual enrollment offerings include traditional core subject areas but also extend to many other career and technical education offerings, like Certified Nurse Aid, and automotive technology," said Tighe. "In fact, we had 14 students earn certificates in automotive technology from Yavapai College prior to graduation from high school."

In addition, area high school students signed up for an additional 376 credit hours of classes that they did not complete. In other words, they learned that college was not for them ... and they didn't have to spend money learning that lesson.

The fiscal wisdom of this business model is suspect, but the college's commitment to providing students the opportunity of earning a college education cannot be questioned.

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Comments heard from members of the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee Wednesday appear to be misdirected efforts at resolving the conflict that exists between Prescott and the Verde Valley. Board members Bill Regner and Randy Garrison were both critical of the college administration for not buying into the priorities of the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee.

"There's a strong sense that the administration is not embracing this process and not bringing us into their fold. I think if there was more of a sense of we are all working together on this, then we all would get on board more with assisting with the kinds of efforts that you are trying to do," said Regner.

Added Garrison: "If we don't get serious financial consideration on supporting these plans from the administration on the other side of the hill, we're just never going to be successful in anything we try."

It bears emphasis that Garrison and Regner are part of a committee charged with offering advice to the Yavapai College Board of Governors. The college administration does not receive its direction from the Verde Valley Board Advisory Committee.

Committee members need to make their case to the YC Governing Board, which is where the buck stops and to whom the college administration takes its marching orders.

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