Tue, June 18

Commentary: ‘Business’ of running Yavapai College sadly lacking; current model of governance ineffective

Jane Russell-Winiecki

Jane Russell-Winiecki

It may be hard to believe, but there was a time when the Verde Valley campus of Yavapai College was a busy, bustling campus. Two of my children attended; one while attending Mingus Union High School and the other after graduation from Mingus.

Visiting the beautiful campus was an adventure. The bookstore was open and filled with students. There was also a busy little lunch room. One often had to drive around to find an open parking space.

The Yavapai-Apache Nation has a longstanding scholarship program which paid my children’s tuition, fees and expenses. Over the years, the Nation’s Scholarship Program has grown with an ever-expanding population of high school graduates.

Many of our Tribal citizens have taken advantage of the college’s two-year degree programs, which easily transferred to four-year programs at the state’s three universities. The college became a good resource and starting point for local students seeking higher education.

Unfortunately, recently at Yavapai College, many courses have disappeared, resulting in a significant drop in attendance and degrees by the Nation’s students.

A visit to the campus these days will find plenty of parking spaces and an all but abandoned campus. We understand that college enrollment is down across the country and that distance learning is a wave of the future. But what a sad statement, that the Nation is unable to spend its millions of scholarship dollars in its own community.

With the prospect of a 2-percent increase in taxes, most of which go to the Prescott campus, has the college considered improving its Verde Valley curriculum to see if the community may respond with increased enrollments, thereby increasing revenues to its bottom line?

From the Nation’s point of view, the ‘business’ of running a college is sadly lacking and the current model of governance is not forward thinking and is ineffective. The Governing Board has basically abdicated their role and turned their responsibilities over to the college. We’re looking for someone who supports the Verde Valley Yavapai College.

In our view, past goals for the Verde Valley have not included any substantial progress and we believe we need to take a serious look at our future Board of Directors.

The prospect of a new Yavapai College president is encouraging and we look forward to an individual who is interested in the educational well-being of the whole of Yavapai College, including not only Prescott but the Verde Valley. We have studied our options for the upcoming Yavapai College Governing Board election and are going to support the individual who is interested in supporting the Verde Valley Campus through their leadership and voting record.

We believe that most voters do not support raising taxes each year as a matter of practice and hope that voters are interested in meeting the increasing educational needs in the Verde Valley.

The Yavapai-Apache Nation will always support efforts to satisfy the increasing educational needs, not only of the Yavapai-Apache Nation, but also the needs of all communities throughout the Verde Valley.

We encourage voters to find the candidate that best fits that definition. We certainly do all that we can to support our student’s needs through our scholarship program.

Given an improved curriculum and strong Board leadership, we would love nothing more than to once again send our citizens to Yavapai College’s Verde Valley Campus.

Jane Russell-Winiecki is the chairwoman of the Yavapai-Apache Nation’s Tribal Council.