Great Basin College serves its niche in northeastern Nevada and beyond | nnbw.com

Great Basin College serves its niche in northeastern Nevada and beyond

As Great Basin College (GBC) based in Elko marks its golden anniversary in 2017, it does so while experiencing a period of change and growth.

Founded in 1967 as a two-year college, GBC has served its niche as a primary higher education option for residents in northeastern Nevada, although it touts itself as a pioneer in interactive video conferencing via satellite campuses throughout the state.

Along with its long distance program, the institution expanded its curriculum by adding a few four-year degrees.

In 2016, the college added bachelor's of arts degrees in English and Social Sciences, as well as a bachelor's of science in Biological Sciences and associates of arts and sciences degrees in Emergency Medical Services.

Kayla McCarson, associate director of marketing and communications for GBC, said the added degrees, especially in the healthcare industry, were established to help develop needed skilled workforce in Elko and other rural communities.

"In rural areas, there's a real shortage of healthcare professionals, particularly the pharmaceutical and paramedic fields," McCarson said.

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Great Basin College president Marc Curtis, whose tenure ends on July 31, helped spearhead the movement to add the degree programs, said a key to GBC offering new medical programs is through recommendations made from the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine.

"I would like to give a sincere thanks to Dean Thomas Schwenk of the University of Nevada School of Medicine who extended a strong letter of support for our B.S. in biological science degree," Curtis said in a released statement provided by GBC.

McCarson explained GBC has faced challenges to alleviate the workforce shortage in other industries. For instance, while McCarson lauded the college's elementary and secondary education department, she admits it's been very difficult to find enough qualified teachers, which are desperately needed at the rural K-12 school systems.

"Even if we have a 100 percent graduation rate in the education degree program, we still can't meet the needs we have now," McCarson said.

But in turn, the college has had its share of success stories along the way.

During his term as president, Curtis advocated workforce development for the region's major industries including mining. The Career and Technical Education program at GBC offers degree and certification programs to fill jobs in that industry.

Northeastern Nevada's major industries, particularly mining have been huge benefactors for GBC. Last spring, Barrick Gold, along with Cisco and GBC partnered to introduce Cisco Networking Academy, an IT education program that covers all ranges of training, from exploratory courses to foundational certification courses and advanced networking and programming courses to surrounding communities.

Dr. Joyce Helens takes over as president of GBC on Aug. 1 and appears to have plans to continue strengthen programs already in place.

Helens previously served as president at St. Cloud State Technical and Community College in Minnesota and was recognized for building a strong career and technical education and workforce development programs at the school. She has also served in other community college leadership positions in Alaska, Oregon, Texas and Washington.

"It's really exciting for GBC to have Helens on board," McCarson said. "I think with her background, she will hit the ground running and continue what Dr. Curtis already has built at GBC."

Statistics provided by Great Basin College indicated the school had an enrollment of 3,397 full-time and part-time students in fall semester 2016, a little more than 1,600 enrolled on the main Elko campus. The vast majority of students come from northeastern Nevada, although a handful come from out of state. However, with its four-year degree programs and favorable tuition, McCarson said GBC may look to market itself more outside of the area and even try to compete with other four-year colleges in the region. A full-time student pays $2,850 a year for lower division courses and $4,478 a year for upper division courses.

About 30 percent of GBC's 30 degree and certification programs are available entirely online. Currently, 58 percent of its students are enrolled in online courses. McCarson said more four-year programs could become available online.

McCarson said GBC has prided itself on being an innovator and pioneer for distance and education either with statewide branches in Battle Mountain, Ely, Pahrump and Winnemucca, via interactive video conferencing, along with at least a dozen other satellite campuses statewide. The college also recently acquired a site in the Pahrump area from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) with plans to develop new facilities. McCarson said the college is in initial stages of developing the land and has yet to determine exactly what purpose any new facilities will serve in the future.

McCarson said one topic that has been bantered around the Elko campus is the need for support staff to accommodate new degree programs and the natural growth of the campus. She indicated the college has already added about a half-dozen new faculty members.

"Our strategy always has been in growth," McCarson said. "But as we continue to evolve and grow, I think we need to add to our faculty and staff."

Great Basin College opened its doors in 1967 as Elko Community College and was later renamed Northern Nevada Community College before taking on its current moniker. Since its inception, GBC has awarded more than 5,500 degrees and certificates.

Great Basin College at a Glance

Fall 2016 (as of October 15)

Total Students Enrolled 3,397

Cost of attending

Attendance Headcount Percent

Full-Time 918 27%

Part-Time 2,479 73%

Age Group Headcount Percent

Under 18 878 26%

18-24 1,171 34%

25+ 1,348 40%

Educational Goal Headcount Percent

Career/Technical Degree or Certificate 808 24%

University Transfer Degree 552 16%

Bachelor’s Degree 534 16%

Non-degree seeking 1326 39%

Undecided/Other 177 5%

Student Enrollment

Enrollment by Campus/Site Headcount FTE % FTE

Battle Mountain 103 50.4 3%

Elko 1603 998.5 54%

Ely 233 107.4 6%

Pahrump 408 223.5 12%

Winnemucca 430 228.2 12%

NV Out-of-Service Area 554 190.0 10%

Out-of-state 117 51.5 3%

Total 1849.5 100%

Note: Students can and do travel to multiple sites for classes

Students in internet classes are assigned to a site by county of residence

Mode of Instruction FTE Percent

Online 1080.4 58%

Live 495.0 27%

Interactive Audio-visual 274.1 15%

Total 1849.5 100%

Specific Populations

Headcount Percent

Students with disability status 67 2%

Degree-seeking students eligible for federal Pell Grants 676 33%

Students enrolled in at least one online class 2703 80%

Students enrolled in developmental education 557 16%

Student Performance

Degrees and Certificates Awarded in 2017 Headcount Percent

Bachelor’s 76 13%

Associate’s 295 52%

Certificates 200 35%

Total 571 100%

Industry Skills Preparation Certificates 0%

Grand Total 571 100%

Fall-to-fall Retention Rate 65%

Calculated as the percentage of all degree-seeking students enrolled fall 2015 who completed a skills preparation certificate, certificate of achievement or degree prior to fall 2016 or who were enrolled fall 2016.

Graduation Rates

Three-year graduation rate for full-time certificate and associate’s degree-seekers – fall 2013 cohort 46%

Six-year graduation rate for full-time certificate, associate’s and bachelor’s degree-seekers – fall 2010 cohort 24%

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