Aug 192011

By Teri Walker–

Through a just-approved partnership with Prescott College, Northland Pioneer College (NPC) students can now pursue Bachelor of Arts degrees in elementary education and early childhood education without having to move out of the area to attend a state university.

The Navajo County Community College District Governing Board met Tuesday and unanimously approved an intergovernmental agreement between NPC and Prescott College, a private institution, which would allow NPC students to transfer up to 90 credits to Prescott, then complete the remaining 30 credits required for each bachelor’s program with online classes and a handful of visits to Prescott.

“Costs have increased significantly to move out of the area to attend state university,” said NPC Vice President for Learning and Student Services Mark Vest. “This, for us, is a great project and opens the way for us to potentially offer more bachelor’s programs in the future.”

During Tuesday’s meeting, the board also learned the results of a survey issued to students who have elected not to return to NPC. Vest presented the results, noting that of the 1,368 students who did not finish a degree program, but elected not to return to NPC this year, 165, or 12 percent, responded to a survey focused on learning what influenced their decision.

The top reasons given for not returning include: transfers to other institutions (15 percent), work conflicts with scheduled class times (13 percent), finances (12 percent), moved from the area (10 percent), personal issues (eight percent) and courses desired were not available (eight percent).

Vest said the percentage who cited lack of desired courses is significantly higher than in previous years, reflecting the impact of the college’s reduction in course offerings in recent years due to budget constraints. He also noted that the financial concerns cited included students who applied too late for financial aid, weren’t approved for financial aid, owed past due tuitions and fees to NPC so they couldn’t re-enroll, or who simply could not afford to attend. Vest said none of the respondents specifically mentioned tuition increases.

Sixty-five percent of respondents said they met or partially met their education or career goals during their time at NPC, while 35 percent said they did not.

Ninety-two percent of students said the quality of services and academic programs at NPC exceeded or met their expectations, and 80 percent said they plan to re-enroll at NPC in the future. Vest said academic advisors have contacted those students who expressed a desire to return to NPC, encouraging them to reapply. The college is awaiting fall enrollment information to learn whether the outreach effort merited renewed enrollment.

In his concluding thoughts regarding the survey results, Vest said, “Given that this survey is the equivalent of a business contacting its dissatisfied customers, students who are not returning and haven’t graduated continue to have a remarkably positive view of the college–86 percent positive or neutral–and a high regard for programs and services.”

In other business, NPC President Dr. Jeanne Swarthout reported to the board that she learned in recent days that the Hopi Navajo Relocation Scholarship program is ending this semester.

“This will affect a lot of students,” said Swarthout, who noted that college staff would be looking into options for providing assistance to the Native American student population that presently relies on the scholarship program to attend NPC. She said the college might consider allocating general funds to assist students.

Finally, with classes set to resume on Monday, several new staff appointments were announced. Valarie Abeyta and Ayla Hayden were hired as financial aid specialists. Julie Neish, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Brigham Young University and Master of Music from George Mason University, is the new faculty in music.

Peterson Yazzie has joined the art faculty. Yazzie earned an Associate of Fine Arts and Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Institute of American Indian Arts, and his Master of Fine Arts from the University of New Mexico.

Richard Harris was hired as a faculty member in Spanish. He earned his Bachelor of Arts in Spanish and Master of Arts in Spanish Literature from Arizona State University.

John Vorpagel, Karen Baker and Natalie Kee were hired as support center operators for the college’s informational systems (IS) department.

Two faculty members have been hired through contracts with the Arizona Department of Corrections. Russell Brown earned his bachelor’s degree in professional aeronautics from Embry Riddle Aeronautical University and Master of Education from Northern Arizona University. John Confer earned a Bachelor of Science in liberal arts from Arizona State University.

Tanya Baker, who was previously an adjunct instructor at NPC, has been hired as the biology lab manager. Baker earned a Bachelor of Science in health sciences from the University of Arizona.

Stephanie Joseph, who has a Master of Arts in library science from the University of Arizona and a Master of Science in public health from the University of Kansas, will be the Whiteriver Center advisor and library technician.

Former NPC employee Kathy Reed has been hired as the secretary to the Dean of Nursing and Allied Health.

Finally, Travis Myers, who previously held a temporary position at NPC, has been hired as a records and registration clerk.