CNCC unveils community response plan to increase courses offered in Moffat, Rio Blanco counties
The latest bust in oil and gas production, coupled with increasing uncertainty for the future of the coal industry, has prompted the cities of Craig and Rangely to look toward Colorado Northwestern Community College as a source of future economic growth.
CNCC’s Community Response Plan — a roadmap for “responsible growth” intended to spur significant expansion at the college during the next five to 10 years — was unveiled by Vice President of Instruction Keith Peterson during the Moffat County Affiliated Junior College District Board meeting Monday, Feb. 19.
Peterson, who has been on the job about three months, said the plan was developed as a result of feedback provided through monthly community networking meetings; town hall style meetings in Craig, Rangely, and Meeker; followup meetings with school district superintendents; meetings with college advisory board members and industry leaders; and a campus tour of Colorado Community College System administrators.
The result is a list of 17 programs desired by the communities, as well as four suggestions for increased outreach between college and communities. Between 2019 and 2021, the college intends to move forward with seven programs and two outreach initiatives.
“The plan is to execute a number of things successfully, then circle back and add on,” Peterson said.
Making the short list are new non-credit welding courses; the expansion of existing allied health, animals science, paleontology, adult education, and community education programs; and a pilot program for TriState Generation and Transmission apprenticeship degree completion.
The college also plans to expand online options with nine new programs students can attend via the online portal. It will also seek to add to existing outreach efforts, more community forums, and events for families.
Growth in some areas has already begun. CNCC President Ron Granger reported that, as of Feb. 12, CNCC’s spring enrollment was up 7.6 percent full-time equivalent students, with an 8.5 percent increase in headcount.
The new welding program, Peterson said, could “see some results on it as early as this summer.”
Initially, a sampling of non-credit earning welding classes will be offered in both Rangely and Craig, using facilities shared with each town’s high school, to test and grow the program. Depending on the direction test classes take, the expectation over time is to grow and seek certification for through the Colorado Department of Higher Education.
College district board Secretary Zach Allen asked if there would be interest in a non-credentialed class.
“A CDHE certificate will be nice add-on,” Peterson said, adding the lack of credentialing would not be “a barrier for gainful employment.”
Another program that could be fast-tracked would see the college partner with TriState Generation and Transmission to provide transcript reviews of employees enrolled in an apprenticeship program. The aim is crediting students up to 45 hours, about two-thirds, towards an applied science degree to ” give people a leg up on degree completion,” Peterson said. Further talks with the company are needed to determine if the transcript review would be offered to a large number of people or as-needed to qualifying individuals.
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The Craig campus is soliciting ideas from students in the growth and expansion of the paleontology program.
“Watch over the next 18 months as we transform a neat dinosaur in the basement to a community space,” Peterson said. He added that students are designing museum-type exhibits to bring the dinosaur — the fossilized remains of a hadrosaur, or duck-billed dinosaur, that measured about 12 feet tall and 40 to 50 feet long — “upstairs” to allow the public to “interact with the bones, the paleo art and allow folks to experience what we have at the school.”
The college has requested additional funds from the state to add another science instructor to the Craig campus to “increase that footprint” of the program over the next six months, Peterson said.
Another area in which growth has already begun is in CNCC’s animal sciences program.
Introduced in Rangely, equine science classes expanded to Craig this spring and “will continue to expand,” Peterson said. The college is also talking with local groups about the development of a “wild horse reclamation program,” which Peterson believes could put Craig in the national spotlight if wild horses from Sandwash Basin were trained as part of a CNCC program.
Under the direction of Annette Burrow, Adult Education has grown, with 59 students enrolled in English as a Second Language. According to Peterson, records indicate this number far surpasses the previous high enrollment of about 12 students.
Community Education is also being “reinvigorated to increase CNCC’s community footprint, Peterson said.
“We are a community college,” he added. “We want to connect with the community we serve. We’ve been kind of slow out of the gate with Community Education.”
At the Craig campus, the program has been mostly rudderless, adrift since the autumn resignation of former Director Desiree Moore. After reorganizing the position, which will now oversee coordinators of community education in Rangely, Meeker, and Craig, the college is in the process of hiring a replacement to be based in Craig. Interviews will be scheduled next week, “hopefully, to move forward very quickly,” Peterson said.
He said he expects one result will be more community-focused events that allow residents “to associate with the college in a positive way.”
College district board member Terry Carwile seemed pleased to learn the new director would be based out of Craig, where there has been a “25-year history of community education.”
Timelines given to programs moving forward in the first round for growth were praised by Brian MacKenzie, former college marketing director and city council candidate, when he spoke during public comment. However, the timelines might not be rapid enough for some workforce needs.
College district board Treasurer and Memorial Regional Health CEO Andy Daniels expressed concern about the timeline for nursing.
One of the county’s largest employers, MRH needs expedient nurse education. If CNCC isn’t able to provide it, Daniels said, he’ll have to send staff elsewhere.
“We’re not waiting for the spring of 2020,” he said.
In response, Peterson noted they had expanded the spring cohort to accommodate 10 additional nursing students and would seek to take an additional 10 in spring 2020, with a full bachelor of nursing program expected in fall 2021.
As CNCC looks to grow offerings in allied health, Peterson said the college must “make sure we are growing responsibly … get through the spring cohort, then the BSN and then add on.” Later courses could include phlebotomy, as well as training for physical therapy and occupational therapy assistants.
The community meetings that led to the development of the response plan will become an annual event.
“The president is very insistent on that,” Peterson said.
He added future meetings will also help evaluate what was successful and what was not.
Contact Sasha Nelson at 970-875-1794 or snelson@CraigDailyPress.com.
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