By Kathleen Winn, Maricopa Community College District Governing Board Member
Arizona’s largest college system is experiencing the effects of Covid. Since last March when the college shut its doors to on campus learning and cancelled all athletic programs the enrollment numbers have significantly changed. Across the district enrollment is down almost 20%. This taxpayer enterprise continues to remain on-line and as we have learned this is not conducive for students who attend community college. At the same time GCU and ASU are getting the benefit as their enrollments are up by 7 to 10 percent.
Ironically, the college campus has allowed thousands of community members on campus to be tested for Covid and now to be vaccinated. One board member had suggested “we let people know they could benefit from taking classes” as they had a captive audience waiting in line. They were told this would be in poor taste. So, the numbers continue to decline.
The Interim Chancellor has made many personal changes and has many interim positions serving as college Presidents. After Maria Harper-Marinick was forced out, Leslie Cooper, and the recent resignations of Provost Karla Fisher and Dr. Larry Johnson from Phoenix College, one might question what all the volatility is about.
Many classes require hands on experience that cannot be accomplished virtually. The choice to stay closed has been a costly one for the district and may cost some their jobs. There have been no layoffs like University of Arizona or ASU. Unbelievably the board gave a COLA raise recently. If it were not for mismanagement, there would be no management at all. As college Presidents make hard decisions, the leadership has not committed to reopening the college.
This week the community college is asking to expand some of their programs to 4 years, a bill that was designed to help the rural colleges (HB2523). If Maricopa cannot serve the community by training a much-needed workforce, does adding more expensive 4-year programs make sense? Until this college is fully operational and can demonstrate stable leadership and better enrollment numbers we may want to wait before asking taxpayers for more money. But while they remain closed you can get a COVID vaccine and that is the only way you can get on a Maricopa Community College campus.
Ms. Winn has extensive experience in public service, devoting much her time to combating a variety of causes including senior abuse, human trafficking, crime, homelessness and substance abuse.