Western Nevada College President Chet Burton told the Carson City Rotary Club on Tuesday overall his college is headed in a good direction with many positive things happening.
But he made it clear the governor and next Legislature need to fix some of what it did with the new funding formula if WNC is going to thrive instead of survive.
He said the $4.95 million in bridge funding included in the budget in the last week of session has helped his school and Great Basin College, in northeastern Nevada. He said that funding was critical because, under the new formula, there’s a lag of a couple of years in getting more money to handle growth and changing needs.
Burton said that “makes it very hard when a Tesla comes in and says we need three or four thousand employees.”
The Workforce Development Fund that would help the school manage that “lag” wasn’t included in the final budget and wasn’t taken into account in the new funding formula.
One of the biggest changes, Burton said, has to be in the weighted student funding model. He said English and History students at University of Nevada, Reno, get double the funding that goes to one of his welding students.
“Those are skills that lead to a good job,” he said. “I think it’s something that’s going to be looked at carefully.”
Another critical issue, he said, is how “F” grades are counted for student funding. He said if a student’s attendance falls below 60 percent of the classes, the school gets no funding for that student even though the teacher has invested a significant amount of time in that person.
“It’s a perverse model,” he said adding the school lost some $300,000 to the universities because of that rule.
Burton said since the recession started in 2007, WNC’s funding has been cut by 42 percent.
But he said there are numerous positives WNC is now working on.
Burton said they are looking at doubling the number of students in the Jump Start program that lets high school juniors and seniors take, for credit, classes at WNC. Burton said about 60 percent of WNC’s incoming students pass the math and English tests. More than 90 percent of those who participate in Jump Start, he said, pass those tests. He said WNC will be bringing in Pyramid Paiute Tribe students, charter school students from Fallon and others to Jump Start.
He said WNC also is returning to the Naval Air Station Fallon to offer classes, taking classes to veterans serving prison time to improve their chances of success, and expanding its Industrial Technology Center to meet Tesla’s demands for trained workers.
“We’ve got one shot at this because, if they can’t get the workforce to make that plant successful, who else is going to come here,” Burton said.
He said three new classrooms are being added at the Fallon campus by converting a common area to handle a booming student population that will increase by 12 percent this school year.
He said WNC is also looking at finding a way to construct a dormitory on campus, something he said numerous students want because of the difficulty in finding a place to live in Carson City.
He said overall, he’s “bullish” on WNC and its future and continues working to, as he put it, “put the community back in community college.”