CNCC-Craig creates strategy for future expansion

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The faculty and Board of Control of Colorado Northwestern Community College-Craig are finalizing and enacting plans that, over the next five years, will increase attendance and offer more and varied classes. They also hope to build a larger, more comprehensive building for the college.

The are several components to this overall plan, and the larger, more complex steps are just now beginning.

"We, the Board of Control of CNCC, are beginning to look at several properties, and we have started some internal conversations about expanding to a full-blown, comprehensive campus in the future," said Dean Hollenbeck, CNCC-Craig vice president. "We will have a buyer's broker begin to search for properties that fit our needs and bring those options to us."

The school is looking for lots ranging in size from 40 to 100 acres, and is working with American Northwest Realty in the search.

The school won't be doing any construction soon because the state has frozen all new construction for higher education.

"Part of our planning is that the Colorado Committee on Higher Education, CCHE, has pretty much put a stop on any new construction for all higher education, not just community colleges," Hollenbeck said. "They've told everyone 'We will not, unless there is unbelievable need, approve any new construction.' But that will change, and they admit that."

College officials won't be able to build for quite a while, but they can begin planning, purchasing and saving for a new facility, so they will be able to present a full plan to CCHE, along with a significant portion of the construction costs and the necessary land.

"The state will look favorably on Moffat County and CNCC if we have some money saved, say $5 to $6 million. That's leverage to help the approval process along," Hollenbeck said. "By then, we'll have the property already purchased. I believe, and I have been told by the state, that when proposals of that approach are presented to them, they are rarely turned down.

"This will be exciting for the entire community. We hope to be a catalyst for this community, in terms of economic development and expanded opportunities and business and industry training," he said. "It's an important role, and I hope the school can step in and fill it."

But land, money and plans aren't the only components that need to be presented to the state. The school needs to show the number of full time students at CNCC is increasing.

"Part of our strategy includes the tuition buy down we recently announced," Hollenbeck said. "We went back 10 years, looking at the numbers of students, and they've stayed basically flat. There's been some increase, but not any significant growth.

"We want to attract more traditional-aged students. Most of our students are part-time adults, and we are looking to improve the number of students that are full time, or full-time equivalent," he said. "Right now we have between 230 and 250 full-time students, and we need to improve that number by another 100 to 125 students. We're looking to use whatever tools are available to us to attract more students."

The tuition buy down will make a big difference in attracting students, but so will the new course of studies CNCC will be offering.

"We have the fire sciences program, we're very close on the LPN nursing program and we've received real interest from the community about our cosmetology offering," Hollenbeck said. "A heating and air conditioning services program is also being looked at, among other possible studies that could be rooted in any new industry that moves into the area."

The quality of instruction CNCC offers will also be a major asset in the college's efforts to expand the studies offered and the facility they are offered in.

"We are quality instruction; we have quality instructors in every program we put together," he said. "Our partnership with the Bureau of Land Management for the fire sciences courses is a good example. All our credits are transferable to any four year institution because of our high quality of instruction."

The prospects for changes and improvements has brought even more energy to the faculty and staff of the community college.

"This facility is jumping, excited by these plans and projects. The Board's excited; we have a lot going on," Hollenbeck said. "It's an energizing time, but it's not without some pressures and challenges. Once you analyze all the effects, it boils down to the college being a catalyst for all sorts of good things for the community, and we're looking forward to that role."

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