Wyoming’s ability to adapt to the future discussed by board members

The Laramie County Community College Board of Trustees meeting on March 21 covered everything from future technologies to enrollment strategies.

There were, however, a few important conversations over future technologies, legislation concerning Wyoming Community Colleges, WyoTech’s future, Guided Pathways and strategies to increase enrollment.

President Dr. Joe Schaffer shared what he learned on his trip to Jackson Hole for an Economic Needed Diversity Opportunities for Wyoming (ENDOW) event, which focuses on the diversification and innovation of the state economy.

With an organization called Singularity University, the attendees discussed future technologies such as augmented reality, virtual reality, new energy sources, exponential technologies and additive manufacturing along with their possible consequences.

“The concept of singularity, as I understand it, is really driven by a book by the two founders of the group, that at some point, in the not too distant future, we will reach what is a singularity,” Schaffer said. “It’s at a time when technology and artificial intelligence will essentially bring all of us together and we will essentially become what artificial intelligence allows us to develop and augment as a group. It’s a fascinating process.”

Schaffer went on to explain how the event looked towards the future and how Wyoming is in a relatively good position to take on some of these new changes and adapt to the future. Two LCCC students attended the event and took part in inspiring the leaders of ENDOW to organize a youth summit in the near future so that more students can have a voice in these matters.

During the Legislative update, Schaffer mentioned some important changes including House Bill 1, containing a $5 million grant for the WyoTech Initiative and House Bill 31, which extends non-use allowance of the Hathaway Scholarship from two to four years. This will benefit students that take a few years off between high school and college for volunteer or study abroad opportunities.

House Bill 175 has the intent of increasing ease of transfers from community colleges to the University of Wyoming, and a common transcript and student information system in the future.

House Bill 194 included $7 million of funding for the renovation of LCCC’s Fine Arts building, a low interest loan program for residence hall construction, $1.3 million for classroom expansion on the Albany County Campus, funding for the Recreation Athletics Complex renovations and $1.2 million for the Crossroads renovations.  

Senate File 108, 118 and 119 dealt with ENDOW, economic diversification and funding to help new businesses move to or expand in Wyoming.

Schaffer and others met with the Business Council to discuss WyoTech’s future with LCCC and stressed the Board’s stance on the desire to keep WyoTech open, but not compete with private businesses.

“We want to be a solution, we want to help, we want to ensure that community and the state preserves that programming,” Schaffer said. “So we want to be a proposal that’s on the table and at their disposal should it be needed, but we do not want to be perceived as competing with the private sector.”

The Business Council toured the campus on March 22 to view LCCC’s automotive and industrial programs. WyoTech representatives asked for a best and final offer of donations and subleases needed, along with clarification on whether LCCC wants use and ownership of the WyoTech logo if they purchase the facility.

However, there is some sentiment in Laramie against LCCC taking over WyoTech. Albany County commissioners have passed resolutions to make it clear that they would rather a private business take over WyoTech so that their taxes are not increased.

Judy Hay and Clark Harris, Vice Presidents of Student Affairs and Academic Affairs respectively, then updated the board on Guided Pathways. A luncheon called Taste of Pathways was held on March 30.

“What you will see is various tables set up with food and the leaders of nine groups,” Hay said. “They will be looking for conversations with our employees to see who is interested in serving or contributing in any way to the work that they are going to be doing.”

Hay and Harris have, along with others, been talking to all the employees of LCCC to explain Guided Pathways and inform them on how they can contribute to the program. Schaffer encouraged members that wanted more information on Pathways to click on the Guided Pathways link on the EaglesEye homepage.

The last big discussion was a follow-up from the previous meeting’s discussion of enrollment at LCCC and how it can be increased. Board Chairman Bradley Barker opened the discussion to the Board to discuss and ask questions.

LCCC has $15,000 in the budget to increase enrollment. Butch Keadle, Ex Officio member of the Albany County Campus, and Schaffer discussed various strategies for increasing enrollment with that budget and the various consequences of different types of growth.

Strategies of increasing concurrent and dual enrollment with high school students can increase enrollment, but won’t receive as much funding as other types of enrollment.

“We won’t see state funding for that probably for another two or possibly four years.” Schaffer said. “We won’t see tuition revenue from that because we waive tuition fees for that. In fact it will impact our budget negatively.”

Other possibilities discussed included non-traditional, adult students attending classes to improve their professional skills. However, the costs for developing more adult-friendly courses and the added capacity could also negatively impact the budget.

These conversations turned into a discussion of what LCCC’s goal is for increasing enrollment to either increase revenue or something else?  

“Enrollment for enrollment’s sake isn’t the outcome,” Schaffer said. “From my perspective the goal here is to build Wyoming’s workforce, to educate more of our individuals. You can’t overlook that there’s a financial component though, and you have to keep a healthy bottom line.”

“Our mission as a community college is not to just go out and pull students in, right…that’s not our mission,” Trustee Lyttle said. “What our mission is, is to provide an accessible and successful education program to the residents of Laramie County.”

Lyttle then went on to stress that the goal of increased enrollment should not overshadow the increasing of quality of life, improved education, and improvement in other areas for students being educated at LCCC.

The discussion of enrollment was wrapped up with a discussion about handling growth on the campus and how big the Board Members want LCCC to be while maintaining quality of education.

If readers are interested in further clarification on these issues or wish to hear the Board of Trustees meeting in its entirety, it can be found on the YouTube channel lcccwingspan with the title: Board of Trustees Meeting March 21, 2018.


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