Bill Would Broaden Community College Commission’s Powers

CHEYENNE Wyo.

A proposal to restore the Wyoming Community College Commission’s ability to scuttle education programs a power held solely by colleges’ boards of trustees for the past seven years promises to stir up debate when a legislative committee meets next week.

Jo Anne McFarland, president of Central Wyoming College in Riverton, said Thursday that college trustees are perfectly capable of doing away with unpopular programs on their own and don’t need help from the state agency.

“The assumption that local governing boards lack the will to terminate nonviable instructional programs flies in the face of history,” McFarland said, adding that trustees at Central Wyoming College have voted to end two programs surgical technology and a physical therapy assistant program in recent years.

Yet a draft bill before the Joint Education Interim Committee, which meets in Casper on Monday and Tuesday, would give the Wyoming Community College Commission even more power than doing away with programs. Commissioners also could consolidate programs among schools or move them from school to school powers the governor-appointed panel, which right now is more of a coordinating body than a governing one, has not had before.

The changes in the bill were drawn from 35 recommendations made by a panel that looked at how to improve Wyoming’s community colleges. Gov. Dave Freudenthal appointed the Commission on Community Colleges in the spring and the panel met five times over the spring and summer.

The recommendations were made in an August report.

Tex Boggs, president of Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs and chairman of the Commission on Community Colleges, said the bill would give the Wyoming Community College Commission as useful new function.

“It helps ensure that when programs are no longer beneficial to the citizens of Wyoming, they’re considered for termination,” Boggs said. “That consideration has value, I think, for any bureaucracy.”

The Joint Education Committee selected which of the 35 recommendations to put into the draft committee bill after consulting with the governor’s office.

Along with deciding the fate of programs, the Community College Commission would get two other new duties under the bill. Every two years, the Community College Commission would write a statewide plan for the entire college system. Also, the Community College Commission would standardize auditing among colleges.

Rep. Del McOmie, R-Lander and co-chairman of the Joint Education Committee, said the proposals result from the state providing a growing portion now a majority of the colleges’ funding.

“What’s driving all this right now is the Legislature providing over 60 percent of the money to the colleges. It’s no longer being supplied by the local community,” he said.

He said he planned to hear testimony before deciding how he would approach the bill.

But McFarland said she was concerned that the changes, if approved, would result in a completely different and centralized system.

“It would seem to be laying the groundwork for a state board of regents and a community college system that’s 100 percent funded by the state,” she said.

“If that’s the case, then we’re talking an entirely different kind of system than what was recommended by the study commission, which was that the community college commission remain an appointed coordinating board.”

She said she and several other college presidents planned to attend the Joint Education Committee, which is scheduled to meet Monday and Tuesday at the University of Wyoming Outreach Building in Casper.



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