Tue, Aug. 20

Commentary: Goodbye, Inkwell ... Hello, technology

Dr. James Perey

Dr. James Perey

Historical perspective is useful, especially when it informs the future. Yavapai College is celebrating its 50th year in 2018, and this golden anniversary milestone provides a useful retrospective.

Gone are the days of the inkwell, the typewriter, the mimeograph, and the overhead projector. But Hello, Technology.

More and more students, nationwide and locally, seek to complete their degrees through online and other high-tech delivery. This doesn’t negate the need for good old-fashioned seats in the classroom with highly qualified faculty at the lecterns, but it does change the sense of “campus” dynamics.

As a rural community college, we strive to find the right balance between tradition and trajectory. In today’s market, the second largest segment YC serves are online students. Many courses, and some certificates and degrees are offered exclusively or almost entirely online.

Our hybrid courses offer high-tech delivery to meet changing demand, while still providing amazing learning labs and classrooms with the traditional benefits of face-to-face instruction.

The college is most successful in developing programs when business, industry, and community leaders provide insight, ideas, and resources. Nursing, culinary, hospitality, allied health, and winemaking are examples of industry-driven planning at the Verde Valley Campus and Sedona Center.

Nationwide, community colleges historically ride the inverse tide of the economy. When the economy is strong and employment is robust, fewer students enroll to train for or retool their careers.

When the economy is weak, community colleges see a surge in enrollment, as students seek to update their skill set, or earn a valuable new certificate or degree.

Reviewing the past decade of enrollment data helps inform the future. Yavapai College serves the entire county, and at the district level, the most significant growth in population, housing and workforce is in the Quad Cities area. This is also the highest concentration of K-12 students, and the age 25-59 working demographic.

In the Verde Valley, the retirement population is growing faster than the youth population. Schools are shrinking, morphing, and in some cases, closing.

Governing boards serving elementary through post-secondary are continually strategizing how to best adapt to meeting the needs of their student base and community.

At Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus, our enrollment trends mirror that residency pattern. Today, while we have fewer students on campus taking face-to-face instruction, our online enrollment continues to grow.

Simultaneously, we have increased our dual enrollment program, where high school students can earn college-credit while still enrolled in high school.

This critical opportunity is best-leveraged by developing programs that allow high school and adult students to comingle for training purposes.

External community factors also impact programming and enrollment. Over the past decade, drastic cuts in state funding and changes in accreditation requirements altered course offerings.

Many courses morphed from credit to non-credit, better serving the lifelong learning interests of an older population. Simultaneously, there has never been more competition for students, with nearly every postsecondary institution offering online courses.

Students who previously chose traditional Business Administration and Management courses may now opt for entrepreneurial workshops and mentoring through the YC Small Business Development Center and/or the Regional Economic Development Center services.

In fact, our data shows that over the past decade, approximately 1,100 Verde Valley face-to-face enrollments shifted to a combination of online, dual enrollment, and non-credit classes, resulting in delivery of fewer traditional-classroom courses.

As a community, we have a joint responsibility to face and embrace our changing demographics, and constantly strive to meet the challenge of preparing each generation for vibrant careers and callings.

Our outstanding and dedicated team of faculty, staff and administrators at Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus and Sedona Center stands ready to serve, from academic advising to financial aid, tutoring to internship, and career development.

Please visit or call 928-634-6520 to learn what opportunities await. Register now, as Spring 2019 classes begin on Jan. 14.

Dr. James Perey has served as the Executive Dean of the Verde Valley Campus and Sedona Center since 2012. In 2017, he was recognized as the Arizona Career and Technology Educator of the Year at the post-secondary level. Perey serves on the Cottonwood Economic Development Council, the Board of the Arizona Career and Technical Association, the strategic planning committee at Arizona Department of Education CTE division, and meets monthly with local K-12 superintendents to better fulfill his vision of cradle-to-career education and opportunity for Verde Valley students.