Editorial: CNCC should master its role as community’s innovator | CraigDailyPress.com

Editorial: CNCC should master its role as community’s innovator

Colorado Northwestern Community College has a campus in Craig (pictured) and a campus in Rangley.
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Atop a northwestern hill overlooking almost all of Craig below, there exists a shining symbol of our collective investment in this community’s education.

It’s not as big a community college as some, but when Craig’s Colorado Northwestern Community College new campus was opened in 2011, it united several programs under one roof and provided many in this community the hope they could better themselves with a world-class education here at home.

Craig Press Editorial Board

Renee Campbell, publisher

Clay Thorp, reporter

Pete Pleasant, community representative

Desiree Moore, community representative

Contact the Editorial Board at editor@CraigDailyPress.com.

We are lucky to have CNCC here. According to a 2017 report by Colorado’s Community College System, for every dollar spent on education, students gain $4.30 in lifetime earnings. For every dollar spent on education, taxpayers gain $5.70 in added taxes and public sector savings.

CNCC’s 78,000 square foot building is state of the art — complete with its energy efficient student lounge, classrooms, laboratories, a popular nursing program. CNCC’s career center will teach you mine safety, cosmetology, massage therapy, or how to be a certified diesel mechanic.

CNCC is our community college, which leads us to believe the college has a responsibility to serve the residents of our community. The Moffat County Affiliated Junior College District has stepped up their game in the last year, by offering free tuition to Moffat County residents.

Still, we think CNCC can do more.

For example, CNCC has a community education program that hosts a wonderful array of fun and educational classes for people of all ages. But the cost of some courses are exorbitant. If you’re a low-income resident of Craig, such costs may put these courses out of reach. CNCC’s new welding class, for example, will teach you to weld well enough to apply for an entry-level job somewhere willing to train you further. They’ll even give you your own personal protection kit, a few ideas to take home, and proof you completed the course for a nominal fee of $495, plus a $35 supply fee. Financial aid does not exist for courses such as these, creating a substantial barrier for individuals in need of entry-level skills training. Between the dollars collected via our mill levy and the dollars available through the Colorado Workforce Center’s Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, CNCC should be able to do more.

For years, CNCC’s Craig campus has fallen second seat to Rangely’s larger campus in a smaller city. Rangely has a thriving sports scholarship program that attracts students from outside Craig. They have student housing and a vibrant student life program that will support continued growth at their campus.

Craig doesn’t have these things, but they should. If the CNCC Craig campus is to serve its “community” as a community college should, it needs to develop the infrastructure necessary to become an economic driver in Moffat County.

Some in the college’s administration have openly declared CNCC doesn’t have a role in fostering economic growth in Craig. We’re hopeful the most recent vice presidents hired will change this supposed view, but starting from scratch on economic development projects that unify the work of our local school district, Moffat County, and the city of Craig does not bode well for the future. These kinds of partnerships take years to develop into work the community can see and appreciate, so CNCC had better get started.

The CNCC board has been trying to make things happen with the college administration, advocating for more programs and lamenting a lack financial transparency that administration personnel often blame on the state — taking crucial time away from their real mission of educating students in a way that feeds Moffat County’s and the college’s economic growth. CNCC has a taxing district here. The community is invested in its community college. Any lack of transparency, any lack of prioritizing Moffat County’s economic and social needs is an insult to this community and it shouldn’t be tolerated.

CNCC should be strengthening and expanding industry partnerships with area industries to better provide jobs and economic opportunities to residents.  

Craig’s campus has huge potential for growth. Our rural setting could attract world-class athletic programs for shooting sports, agriculture, and energy production. Our students could feed existing businesses and create new ones.

But that will never happen if CNCC doesn’t invest in the Craig community through programs that are in line with community and industry needs and the amenities required to attract students from far and beyond. It is time for the college to recognize its role as an economic driver for the residents of this community— the same community whose mill levy taxes paid for CNCC’s existence in the first place.