WNC Fallon benefits from governor’s budget
The Restore Our College Campus Committee met Jan. 18 to discuss Gov. Brian Sandoval’s State of the State address that granted what the committee said was everything Western Nevada College desired for education.
“Basically, the governor’s budget is everything we asked for,” said WNC President Chet Burton. “I don’t think anyone in their most optimistic projections thought we’d get everything we asked for … That’s my nature, to plan for the worst and hope for the best, and we got the best.”
The committee discussed program growth in the areas of welding, the rodeo team, agricultural science classes, advanced technology and certified nursing assistant and registered nurse programs as well as Jump Start and Career and Technical Education classes.
According to the committee, some areas including CTE courses are more expensive and will benefit from the additional funding due to pricier equipment, more intensive coursework and a higher faculty to student ratio.
“All netted out, assuming we can stabilize enrollment, we’ll have about $650,000 of new money this year,” Burton said.
Enrollment is at about 3,000 students college-wide with 1,000 at Fallon, a local increase compared to last year. ROCCC member Michelle Dondero said she thought overall enrollment issues could very well be related to unemployment, and Burton agreed. The committee talked about doing a better job showing the economic argument over a lifetime of higher education.
Burton said one of the institution’s largest investments has been hiring more faculty members in the last year, which the college had not been able to do significantly during the previous several years.
“I’ve not heard any serious push-back on the Legislature side,” Burton said. “I’m fairly optimistic it’s going to get widespread support. And I think we’ll be in much better shape.”
Burton added WNC has been living through constant cutting for the last 10 years, and now it will have the ability to look more closely at programs and what students need.
The committee touched on how the Jump Start program tuition is paid by Churchill County High School and Oasis Academy — which WNC Fallon Director Sherry Black said is a great bargain for parents.
ROCCC also discussed the Carson City dormitory project and how the dorm will have over 200 beds and allow WNC to be seen as a residential college by attracting students who are searching for campus living.
Black said with the addition of the Fallon nursing program, the campus has seen a boost in its science course numbers, since many students are now signing up for the pre-requisite nursing classes.
Burton said the institution will be giving a record number of scholarships this year. He added when looking at the college’s statistics — such as graduation and retention rates as well as new programs — compared to the other few community colleges, WNC is doing a much better job.
“Now we’ll have some money to invest in new programs,” he said. “We’ve got to get enrollment that’ll support that.”
He added he understands it’s a little bit of the chicken and the egg situation.
Black updated committee members on the accelerated welding program taught by Josh Rau, a manager at the New Millennium joist plant. Black said he has done a great job training students, and last semester, he had an 81 percent certification pass rate.
The committee mentioned its region’s new regent, Carol Del Carlo.
“I believe she’ll be in our corner and understands our issues,” Black said.
The Nevada System of Higher Learning is still searching for a chancellor but has interim John White serving, and he meets frequently with the governor’s staff, Benton said.
The next meeting is March 15 at 6 p.m. in the Churchill County Administration Building, room 102.