In Yavapai College Verde Valley Campus Executive Dean James Perey’s view, the college has “turned a corner” when it comes to perceptions about its performance among Verde Valley residents.
“Not that we weren’t making a good effort before,” Perey said, but added that he and his staff have gone a long way to communicate with the communities of the region to establish consensus about what’s needed in a community college.
“The question is, what makes sense for the Verde Valley?” Perey asked.
Indications of engagement are positive, the dean said, compared to last spring enrollment is up 5 percent at the Clarkdale campus, moving the institution’s gain up a full digit from the fall, in which the college saw a 4 percent increase over the previous fall.
This is an impressive figure, Perey noted, when compared to the college’s overall enrollment. Yavapai College’s enrollment has declined 1.5 percent from spring 2016 — itself a better figure than the national average, according to Perey.
The biggest gain in enrollment comes from the 18 to 24 age demographic, which Perey sees as a step in the right direction. Typically, the college has made most of its gains in people in their 30s.
Perey chalks the gains up to his “excellent” Student Development Department, which has made efforts to engage teenagers and young adults, especially during the period between enrollment and paying their bills to the college.
“We rally the troops to start making phone calls,” Perey said. “It’s that personal contact .... a concerted effort, focusing on students.”
According to Perey, Yavapai College in the Verde Valley and Sedona may be poised at the “forefront of education, especially with career and technical education.”
This shift toward career readiness, Perey explained, is due in part to an incoming presidential administration that talks big on the traditionally blue collar job front.
The other piece of the puzzle is that local leaders — including Valley Academy for Career and Technology Education Superintendent Bob Weir — have been working harder to partner with the college to provide CTE access to high schoolers.
As a result, Yavapai College has done its own shift toward CTE, having first embraced the viticulture program, expanding other career-ready programs and considering new avenues and even facilities.
The Yavapai College Sedona Center is under renovation, set apace to be completed by August. At that point, the culinary program will begin in earnest, according to Perey. Sedona Red Rock High School students may soon be able to take advantage of the Sedona Center, Perey added. He is looking into a partnership with VACTE and Sedona-Oak Creek School District to offer morning culinary arts classes to students.
“Right now, we’re also talking with the Town of Camp Verde to use its new library .... to see what services we might offer there,” Perey said.
The partnership possibilities extend further than the Verde Valley, however: “We’ve got the opportunity for a two-plus-two program with University of Arizona.”
Though not firmly agreed upon, such a program would allow students at Yavapai College to enter into a two-year program that would guarantee junior status in UofA’s Natural Resources bachelor’s degree program.
“If we want to make it happen, we’ll make it happen,” Perey said.
The performing arts have not been ignored, either, according to Perey. Right now, he is looking into establishing an intergovernmental agreement with SOCSD, allowing Yavapai College to use the SRRHS Sedona Performing Arts Center and even install a sprung floor there.
Used by dancers, a sprung floor would allow additional programming for the college, the high school and the community.
“The hope is to have that sprung floor installed no later than the fall to offer more arts.”