By: Joshua Bowling
Four new members were elected to the non-partisan Maricopa County Community College District on Nov. 4, bringing a new sense of change to the board, according to MCCCD Chairman and President, Dana Saar.
This is Saar’s first year serving in his current capacity.
Traditionally, the district had been made up of five members. The new election, however, increased staff size to seven members.
With a non-partisan board running the entire community college district, concerns are often voiced over party politics affecting the process.
“They’ve always been in play,” Saar said. “Non-partisan, in Arizona, is more of a definition than a reality.”
The board, he said, will shift from a left-leaning stance, to a right-leaning stance, due to several of the new members being backed by the Tea Party movement.
“I’m not concerned. Faculty and staff are concerned,” Saar said.
According to Saar, this is not a bad change. Each new member brings new ideas to the table, he said, making their meetings breeding-grounds for discussion. There has never been a council member who has not had ideas for change, he said.
The board directly deals with outcome policies, Saar said. “Where we establish what the county, in this case, feels the community colleges should accomplish.”
“Their university transfer, workforce development’s another, developmental education is the third, and the fourth is kind of a … student engagement …” Saar said. Student engagement is encapsulated by students getting involved in their society, he said.
In an effort to reach all of these goals, Mesa Community College began building a one-stop enrollment center.
All of the Maricopa County Community Colleges are in the process of building one of the new enrollment centers, MCC being one of the last. Typically, a student may have to go from one building to another, visiting advisers, enrollment, and cashiers. With the new center, Saar said, it will “put you on a much faster mix” to enroll.
Education, Saar said, is a multi-billion dollar company. The MCCCD only gets one percent – or $10 million – of its budget from the state, he said. The state will be withdrawing its funding from the MCCCD, he said. Over the years, the board has been growing a rainy-day fund. The fund has a sum total of approximately $450 million, according to Saar.
Saar said the fund should equal approximately 8 percent of their budget, and would serve as a three-month source of money for cash-flow purposes, should the board lose a significant portion of its funding.
The fund is used for one-time payments, such as legal fees, Saar said.
The board may be looking at personnel reassignments for professors and staff at community colleges as a way to make up the loss of the state’s funding, according to Saar. If a given department is suffering, the department may not continue to hire adjunct professors.
In addition, faculty received a raise last year, he said.
Developmental education, in particular, takes up a great portion of the board’s budget. Its cost is close to $100 million, he said.
Though money is going toward the new enrollment center, Saar said it is well-proven as a good investment for the school.
Tutoring, financial aid, and advisement will all be in the new center. “Any type of student support will be in the enrollment center,” Saar said.
In regards to the new enrollment center, MCC student, Kiyoshi Sugiyama, said “I’m looking forward to seeing it come.”
“I haven’t heard much about it until recently when everyone has been talking about it,” he said. “But it looks cool. I’m looking forward to checking it out.”
The MCCCD has also been raising tuition at its schools. MCC recently saw an increase of $3 per credit hour. These changes have come about as a result of inflation, Saar said.
Another way to save is to ask, “Do we need athletics, do we need arts, those kind of programs?” Saar said. “Why don’t we go all online?”
The MCCCD has often customized their software, adding an unnecessary expense, Saar said. Moving on, they will start to implement softwares which do not require any customization.
Saar has two more years of his current term. His job is encompassed by making sure the four outcome policies are attainable for students, he said. “Mesa has the most varied of all those.”
“Focus on what’s not the house,” Saar said as a piece of advice for the rest of the board. “We are a link between the community and the organization itself.”