College president: From workforce programs to rodeo, CNCC has invested heavily in Moffat County’s education |

College president: From workforce programs to rodeo, CNCC has invested heavily in Moffat County’s education

Lisa Jones
Colorado Northwest Community College
Dr. Lisa Jones, president of Colorado Northwest Community College
Colorado Northwest Community College/Courtesy photo

The recent article entitled “Local officials explore moving Moffat County into Colorado Mountain System” warrants a response and clarification.

As president of Colorado Northwestern Community College, I support the community’s interest in education and the pursuit of options which they believe to be in the best interest of taxpayers. That includes the right of community members to engage in conversations with other educational institutions and leaders to determine how best to serve community needs. Colorado Mountain College, an institution with whom we partner, effectively serves many rural communities, albeit through a very different tax and funding model than CNCC. 

This year, CNCC is proudly celebrating its 60th year of serving the Western Slope and beyond. Nearly 40 years ago, CNCC recognized that its original Rangely campus alone could not meet the needs of residents living in the 22,000 square miles served by the college, so it extended services to Craig in 1985.

With both state (Administration bldg.) and county (CTE bldg.) funding, the current Craig facilities were opened on Aug. 8, 2011, and those facilities are among the newest and most modern facilities in the Colorado Community College System. This investment was made because the college and community leaders in Moffat County believed that residents deserve high quality facilities in which to learn.

As one college with two locations, we prioritize decisions based on our strategic plan and available funds. Our decisions are made to provide the best opportunities for programs to thrive and for students to have access.

Based on these factors, Craig is home to most of the college’s workforce programs; GED, ESL, professional development, and other pipeline programs; a large concurrent enrollment population, Nursing, Cosmetology, Automotive Service, Early Childhood Education, Arts and Sciences education leading to university transfer, Certified Nursing Assistant, and Mine Safety.

Three years ago, CNCC implemented its Cybersecurity program. It is Colorado Northwestern’s first new degree program in 10 years, and this investment was placed at our Craig location. We are now working to secure cybersecurity internships for our students at some of the top companies in the country. We are also adding two new workforce programs this year and hope to add a new allied health program soon.

It is true that CNCC moved its soccer program to Rangely last year for financial and student success reasons, but, at the same time, the rodeo program, a long-standing staple in Rangely, was moved to Craig. The Moffat County Fairgrounds is now home to CNCC Rodeo. Rodeo draws families from outside the area to competitions more than any other CNCC sport.

At this year’s Spartan Showdown, hundreds of competitors, family members and spectators patronized Craig hotels, restaurants and other businesses. Agriculture and Ranch Management programs also moved to Craig with rodeo, resulting in increased enrollment. CNCC academic leadership has also partnered with Moffat County High School to map high school and CNCC agriculture programming to ensure a seamless transition and to allow students to take as many courses through concurrent enrollment as possible, a time and money saving opportunity for students. Finally, with guaranteed admission to its Nursing program, CNCC has expanded access to more students and addressed a critical local workforce need.

To be clear, these program offerings are costly, and the funds obtained through the Moffat County mill levy do not fully cover the cost of the operations in Craig. In August 2019, the college completed an analysis which concluded that the cost of operations at the Craig location is four times the amount brought in by the mill levy or $2.2 million per year more than the revenue (tuition, fees and state allocations) attributed to that location.

By contrast, after paying hard commitments, operating dollars available annually to Colorado Northwestern through the Moffat County mill levy is approximately $500,000. Together, we (Moffat Board and Colorado Northwestern) make this investment because we value the citizens of Moffat County, their educational opportunities and Craig as a community. These investments are critical to the economic future of Craig, Moffat County and our region.

We will soon unveil our 2023-28 strategic plan that will build on the accomplishments of our past, but also the community needs of the future. Our vision will not change, however. “Colorado Northwestern Community College will be the college of choice for students seeking a unique education grounded in the Colorado experience.”

Plan priorities and goals will include academic program expansion to meet the current and future needs of the workforce and to serve the interests of our residents in pursuing high need, high pay jobs, and a continued commitment to community collaboration to identify and solve local and regional issues together.​ With the continued support and participation of our community, we will work to honor our history, embrace our roots and remain just as relevant and vital as we were 60 years ago. 

Dr. Lisa Jones is the president of Colorado Northwestern Community College.

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