Future of Higher Education in Arizona Discussed at Outreach Program
Is higher education ready for Arizona’s future?
That was the question posed at a Yuma Community Outreach Program on Wednesday, which featured presentations and discussion on recommendations from the 102nd Arizona Town Hall on higher education held in April.
Dignitaries, educators, nonprofit organization leaders and business people were present at the event, as was a student from Arizona Western College who recently participated in a Youth Town Hall with fellow classmates and high school students on the same subject.
Tara Jackson, president of Arizona Town Hall, said that Yuma was the second stop on a statewide tour of meetings held to gather insight as to which recommendations should be made a priority before they are sent to elected officials for review. Jackson also said that they are also looking to community leaders in Arizona to see how these recommendations to help solve higher education problems can be turned into a reality.
Presenters during the event included Ram Krishna, Arizona Board of Regents member, Russell Jones, former member of the Arizona House of Representative, and Chelsea Bradley, vice president of programming for AWC’s Student Government Association.
Linda Elliott-Nelson, dean of instruction at AWC, facilitated a discussion with those in attendance to create a Yuma statement that will be incorporated into the town hall’s statewide recommendations.
Some comments brought forth by speakers included the need to lower university tuition costs, boost the amount of scholarships available to students and also the need to strengthen partnerships between local early childhood programs, K-12 schools, community colleges and universities in areas of technical education, professional opportunities and critical thinking.
Shanna Orlich, an attorney with Jennings, Strouss and Salmon PLC, was the recorder for the event. The consensus statement she formulated based on comments by Yuma community members is as follows:
“Higher education—its development, promotion, and opportunities within—should be a priority for the Yuma community. To achieve change, members of our community need to work together with our local high schools, Arizona Western College, the universities and the legislature. We must target legislators to encourage them to read the changes and solutions proposed within the Town Hall report in order to hold them accountable for the state of our higher education system. Additionally, to achieve funding from the legislature, it is vital that legislators see the concern of their constituents regarding the state of higher education, particularly at the community college level and through bridge-the-gap programs.
“One critical item is the development of JTED (Joint Technical Educational District) and vocational education. Currently, there is planning taking place to develop vocational programs to assist students in developing career skills. This also helps to bridge the gap between K-12 and higher education in order to give students more vision as to what is out there for them to pursue. Vocational education provides a route for students to see where they may go, and without this exposure, students’ horizons are not as broad as they could otherwise be. And this exposure should also include professionals, fostering development of future professionals—doctors, lawyers, etc.—that can also help to build up the community. Other bridging programs that teach leadership, critical thinking, imagination, and perspective also enrich the community and our students. Currently, Yuma is the only county lacking the JTED program.
Finally, financial aid is also a constant difficulty for students, particularly those who lack access to aid because they do not have parents willing and/or able to support them.”
Visit www.aztownhall.org for more information about the Arizona Town Hall.