FRC Trustee Saxton’s recent letter about a grant from Sierra Pacific for Welding and Manufacturing instruction was relevant. Voc-Ed has received short shrift at FRC, but it didn’t start with the current administration.
Years ago, FRC stood out among community colleges through a range of vocational programs. They included degree and/or certificates in Industrial Arts (which built utility buildings on campus and around town) and Wildlife and Fisheries, Forestry, and Watershed. Equine Studies is healthy and recently expanded to 4-year degrees.
The outdoor offerings centered on Plumas’ geography. They were unique and allowed FRC to recruit statewide. But FRC’s long-time recruiter was shown the door two administrations ago.
The pre-Trutna administration did not replace four full-time Voc-Ed faculty who retired. Those programs were eliminated, leaving second year students marooned and community adults (in the case of Industrial Arts) without access to evening skill classes.
When and how should an institution decide to let a program lapse? The program closure criterion shouldn’t be a retirement, with the equipment moved or sold. Where should/did that unspent money go? What was the other priority?
Colleges cannot offer coursework and programs if students aren’t signing up for them. That’s understandable. But these programs were long-term fixtures, so why didn’t FRC hire replacements as faculty retired? The federally funded Voc-Ed building no longer serves the clientele it was intended for—who on the campus can explain that?
Higher Education isn’t exactly a business, but like most organizations, data, monitoring, strategy, and management are key—even if the support is mostly state funded. Employment related skills for the community should be attempted, and in this case I see Sierra Pacific’s generosity as emphasizing that.