Hi, friends. This is a message for those of you who live in Pulaski County. But keep reading even if you don’t live here, if you are interested in an issue that affects me. 🙂
As I’m sure you know, I work at Pulaski Technical College as a director in our Allied Health division, serving as the administrator for eight health care degree programs in which we are partnered with Baptist Health, St. Vincents, and Arkansas Children’s hospitals. A little less than a year ago I was promoted (officially recognized) to this position that kind of created itself as I volunteered to help engineer and lead more and more programs. About two years ago, our college’s administration had a complete turnover with the retirement of our past president. There has been a lot of change at PTC, focused on the quality of education we provide.
PTC’s enrollment has exploded in the last 5 years, where we now serve over 10,000 students, which I believe makes us the 4th largest college in the state!!! As a state school, we are supported by state funds, but these funds have not increased with our enrollment. We are blessed to say that higher education funds have not decreased, though. But they have remained flat. That puts us in the situation of being funded at about half our requirement. This “requirement” is determined by a formula from the state itself. Some colleges have full funding; others are like us. But the state knows what it should be giving us but it can’t. We should be receiving $31 million. We get $17 million.
This is the lowest funding of all state schools who do not have a local tax support. There are only six of the 22 community colleges in the state who are not supported by a local tax. We are one of them.
Now, me personally, I hate two things about this. I hate special elections that have one ballot measure. And obviously I don’t want to pay more taxes. But I’m setting these aside because of our need. PTC is doing some really good things. I know the street reputation of the school and you probably do too. But times are changing. Let me tell you my personal story briefly.
In this past year, I have had more fulfillment from my job under the leadership of my Dean and President than I ever have before. We are doing some legitimately good things for health care and adult learners. First, I was able to take a college-wide policy from the ground all the way through the Board of Trustees for approval. This policy is called Prior Learning Assessment. You may have heard of it called ‘adult experiential learning’. Basically, it will enable PTC to assess learning from life experiences to award college credit. This is great for adult learners wanting to turn learning from experience into a college degree and be afforded more and better opportunities. Did you know the average age of our student is 30? So this policy means something and PTC is a state leader in getting this initiative passed.
Too, I have assisted in the beginning of a new field of health care worker in Arkansas called Anesthesia Technology. Think of them as the scrub techs for the anesthesiologist. Through a grant, we established the program and have made it so it can be offered across the state by distance learning, not just in Little Rock. To do this, we are also forming novel academic partnerships with other schools in the state. This has never been done! This has been a stressful, innovative, and challenging beginning that has pushed me into areas of new capability as an educator. What does this program mean? For the patient, it means the doctor is with you and not setting up and cleaning up after; and it also lowers the cost and turn-around to hospitals.
So what is this special election asking of you? PTC is asking for 1.9 mills, which amounts to $38 per $100,000 assessed property value per year. 1.9 mills is lower than the other colleges who are at our level of state funding and have a local tax support already. In asking this of Pulaski County residents, PTC will be giving a $10/credit hour discount to residents of the county.
What will the funds go toward? The generated $11 million will start coming to the college in 2016, if approved, and there are three major areas I want to point out that it will fund:
1. Support for our technical and industrial education programs. The demand for graduates by businesses in central Arkansas is greater than we are able to produce at our current limitations. Improvements and expansions are needed to better serve our students and industries. 70% of our students come from right here in Pulaski County. We will all receive a return on investment by having more educated people in the workforce and off government assisted living.
2. Science labs are in dreadful shape, a subject near and dear to me. Our students needing sciences to get into health care programs such as mine sometimes have to wait a year due to space restrictions. Sciences fill up within hours of registration opening. In this way, we cannot meet the standard of successfully preparing our students for health care jobs. I want to be able to do better!
3. We need to expand our advising services. We have SIX full-time advisors for over 10,000 students. Six. Studies definitively show that advising is the best chance for student success. We need to do better.
I’m asking two things from you at this point. Set a reminder on your phone and please go vote on Tuesday, March 11. And please share this with a friend who is registered in Pulaski County.
If you have any questions, I will honestly and candidly answer them.