Our View: MCC offers a good foundation for new leader to improve

May 13, 2019

For many people, community colleges are an important bridge to the middle class, or a way of accessing education that four-year institutions can’t provide.

Mohave Community College has a proud history of doing just that for nearly five decades. Established by a public vote in 1970, the college district opened campuses in Kingman, Havasu and Mohave Valley to educate a local resource – or in Havasu’s case, build one from scratch.

That’s still the case today.

In Lake Havasu City, MCC has met with local community leaders – many of them private employers – to ensure the programs it offers locally match local needs. Part of that engagement has resulted in the college improving its welding offerings in Lake Havasu City, which has seen huge demand for skilled workers in that trade. That’s one example of how a community college can serve its community at a relatively low cost, but it’s not the only one. A few days ago, MCC held commencement for nearly 600 students. With any luck, each of those graduates, whether trained in nursing, dental hygiene, welding, engineering or any of the other dozens of programs available at local campuses, are now employable additions to the local work force. Graduating from MCC is a signal to employers that someone can hit the ground running in a new job.

Mohave Community College has done a pretty good job of answering labor demands, as well as providing a way for students to move onto four-year universities. That’s more important than ever as skilled workers are becoming harder for employers to find, and the cost of higher education keeps rising at absurd rates.

We’ve entered a new era for education in Lake Havasu City, with the addition five years ago of an Arizona State University campus and a new focus on educational attainment in our schools and community. MCC has an important role to play in Havasu’s future.

Some of the challenges? Improving its relationship with ASU to provide a seamless education for transfer students, for one. A focus on the “community” part of its name is important, too – students attending the Havasu campus should be able to access the same classes and programs as their counterparts in Bullhead City and Kingman, without requiring a commute to those campuses. Technology will probably help in that regard.

Also, keeping costs low will continue to be a challenge. Each year, the MCC board eagerly raises the property taxes it collects from homeowners. The board just did so last week – the full 2 percent allowed under Arizona state law. The problem with that is the money is never designated for specific programs; rather, it goes into the general fund to support the increasing costs of providing higher education to county residents. According to college officials, some of those costs include covering unfunded mandates from state and federal government regarding wages, and covering increasing costs for all services and products. In other words, that’s bureaucratese for “we want more money.”

The college can and should do a better job of managing its budget.

MCC just hired a new president. Stacy Klippenstein, president of Miles Community College in Miles City, Montana, will assume his new duties in Mohave County on July 1. He’s got his work cut out for him.

Luckily, he’s got a pretty good foundation to build on.

— Today’s News-Herald