Adam’s Blog

That’s my thing, keepin’ the faith, baby. –Joe Friday

Questions on the Community College

Posted by Adam Graham on March 28, 2007

Conservatives can have their debates back and forth. The Idahoan has a post on the community college issue where we begin the debate and he lays the groundwork quite well:

That’s not to say that one should never raise a tax to generate revenue for some public purpose. We’re conservatives, not anarchists. We pay taxes all the time. The reality of government is that it requires a revenue source in order to provide a service. You and I can’t afford our own private fire department or police department, and so we, along with our neighbors, pay taxes in order to sustain that service.

Where we balk is when 1) the tax is too high, 2) the expansion of service unnecessary or 3) the expansion of service is unconstitutional, unlawful or interferes with free markets or property rights. Is this the case with the community college plan? Don’t know. Perhaps not. But we do have questions and concerns

I would agree with tat statement.

For example, it’s been said that the Treasure Valley is “the largest U.S. Urban center without a community college.” This statement ignores in its entirety the fact that the Treasure Valley does have a community college — the aptly named “Treasure Valley Community College.” TVCC is funded by the state of Oregon, based in Ontario with a branch office in Caldwell. Argue whether TVCC’s services are sufficient. That’s fine. But let’s be upfront about the nature of community college services that already exist in the valley.

That’s a fair enough point. With a limited number of programs, credits, ETC. Treasure Valley Community College (which is actually a sattelitle of the school in Oregon) doesn’t really provide a high level of service, plus there’s the bizarre situation of paying out of state tuition to go to school in your home state.

Secondly, while North Idaho Community College and the College of Southern Idaho serve rural areas of the state that lack higher education opportunities, the same is not true of the Treasure Valley. In fact, the “Community College YES” campaign acknowledges that there are, in fact, more than 13 private and public higher education institutions in the Treasure Valley.

The point is granted, but none of these fulfill the purpose of a local community college. The local community college would serve people with lower incomes, and allow those who are working to more easily begin the process of furthering their own eduation. I should also point out that some programs (ex: University of Phoenix) require a two year degree to enter their program, so they have no bearing on the community college debate. Boise Bible College is a fine religious institution, but it’s not a substitute for those who would go to community college.

Third, this valley once had a community college. It was called Boise State Junior College until, in the 1950s, the school started offering 4-year courses and became Boise State University. Go Broncos! Will this new community college share the same fate? It wasn’t so long ago that BSU was complaining about the lack of space on its main campus, and so, convinced the Legislature to spend about $10 million prepping vacant land near Nampa to be its western campus. Now that land is slated to become community college land. Has the BSU problem been resolved? BSU says it turns away 800 students a year now, due to lack of space. Will it miraculously have the space to accommodate 800 more students once a community college opens in the valley?

There are two parts to this point. First, the transformation of Boise State Junior College was more reflective of the changes in the Boise area in population, not likely to occur with the Community College. The Community College may relieve some of the stress on the Boise State system by providing local students somewhere else to go, rather than BSU. Indeed, for many students with financial needs, it may be at a level where little more than pell grants are required. I’ll admit that the long-term issue with BSU is a concern, however. But the other option for this is breaking ground on a new campus which is more expensive. I’d rather shift priorities than start all over again.

Fourth. if we truly need a community college in the Treasure Valley (beyond what we already have) can’t we use existing infrastructure to make it happen? We’re constantly telling public schools that they need to consolidate basic services in order to be more efficient. Why have two or three school superintendents earning six figures in a compact region? Our public officials tell us that’s a bad thing. And yet we should do that with the higher education system? Are there not models to have a community college without the creation of a whole new bureaucracy, i.e., have the administrative functions handled by BSU? Or perhaps we can form a partnership with Oregon’s TVCC. Have we really been creative about the possible options?

I understand the concern. The difference between consolidating school districts and a community college is that if you consolidate school districts, you have less people and administration to do the same job. If we try and have BSU administration do the job, we’re assigning a whole new job with different scales of payment for services to the BSU office with different rates for tuition, a different, building, etc. BSU will be forced to take on additional personnel to cover it, leading to additional costs either way.

Also, either using BSU or Treasure Valley Community College as the basis of a community college in Boise would leave us with a college that was merely a sattelite of those colleges. You would not get the amount of options, number of classes, or same level of flexability as if you had a community college.

Finally, this is the 21st century. Do we really need a brick and mortar community college? Is that in keeping with the current technology available to us?

My answer is a definite yes. There’s several things to take into consideration:

1) Not all classes can be taught online.

At my old community college, they had a radiology technician course. Not really something you could take online. Nor was our Goldsmithing program something you could have e-mailed to you.

2) Not all people can learn online

Different people learn in different ways; some simply can’t learn without traditional instruction, this is especially true of non-traditional students who make up a great portion of community college students.

3) No perfect online software.

It’s simply not out there. Blackboard is most often used, but students often complian about it.

I think an offline campus will definitely add value to the valley and to future students. It’s been fun. The discussion will continue here until election day.


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