CWC staff fear proposed state-directed completion agenda would ‘derail’ existing efforts

The Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees met on April 17. (Joshua Scheer photo)

The Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees met on April 17. (Joshua Scheer photo)

By Joshua Scheer, lead reporter,

(Lander, Wyo.) – The Central Wyoming College Board of Trustees and staff last Wednesday discussed their desire to challenge a not-yet-formal, state-driven directive to re-allocate funds toward student completion.

CWC President Jo Anne McFarland said the Wyoming Community College Commission will be considering withholding about $8 million (10 percent) biannually from the state’s colleges and redistributing the funds based on colleges’ needs to raise completion rates. She said the metrics by which this would be done have not yet been determined.

“I take the position that the colleges are already engaged in completion initiatives and are arguably on the hook from the Legislature for moving forward with completions,” McFarland said, citing a past directive from Cheyenne.

McFarland presented the Board of Trustees with a two page list of initiatives CWC is participating in to help increase completion. Among those are co-requisite courses, a “major emphasis” on academic advising, intrusive advising activities, Graduation Matters events, free summer housing and more.

She noted that CWC is dealing with budget cuts at the moment, and said if more money was taken away and more restrictions added the college would have trouble. “We quite frankly will be derailed on the progress we’re already making,” McFarland said.

She said the Wyoming Community College Presidents Council has asked the commission to not change any metrics in order to give the college’s time to properly assess how well current and recently introduced initiatives are performing.

“I’m not certain that this effort, as we understand it, will do anything more than create, inject more uncertainty in the system,” McFarland said.

English Professor David Gray said the proposed system could force the college to reduce its efforts in helping high school and GED students into, and completing, college.

Vice President for Academic and Student Services Jason Wood the spoke about Complete College America, an initiative that he has been named to. He said the group is developing a statewide plan for completion as directed by Gov. Matt Mead and will use outside help to prepare the plan.

“I can’t express how damaging it would be to take away 10 percent of our funding, and then take staff time to write grants to possibly only get a small bit back,” Wood said. “It’s alarming.”

The commission was scheduled to hold its regular meeting in Riverton last week, but it was postponed due to the snow storms. The commission will meet at CWC on April 29 and 30.

CWC Trustees felt like the staff’s presentation was “comprehensive” and prepared them to talk with the commissioners when they arrive. Chairman Charlie Krebs asked for talking cards to be made up.

“It will definitely affect completion,” Trustee Roger Gose said. “We want to get the best bang for the buck that we have. … Are we really rewarding super performance or penalizing under performance?”