Tuesday, January 27, 2015

What the GO Bond means to DACC.


On February 3rd we are asking the voters of Dona Ana County to approve two bond questions.  The first question lowers our previously approved debit service bond from 1.0 mill to .75 mills.  The debt service bond allows the DACC Advisory Board to authorize the sale of bonds for capital improvements.  The second question asks voters to approve a .25 mill increase to our existing 1.0 mill levy.  Funding resulting from our mill levy is used to fund operations.  Approval of the two questions will result in a 2 mill tax rate.  This tax rate is identical to the 2 mill tax rate that has been in place since well before 2009, the last time DACC went to the voters to approve a debit service bond question.  The approval of the bond and mill levy questions will NOT raise taxes for the citizens of Dona Ana County. 

The voters in Dona Ana County have generously supported DACC for many years by voting affirmatively in past bond elections.  The previous 1 mill debt service bonds have resulted in capital projects that have made possible the East Mesa campus along with the Hatch, Gadsden, Chaparral, and Sunland Park Learning Centers.  Previous debt service bonds have funded computer replacements, facilities maintenance, and new technologies to ensure that our facilities and technology are current affording our students career and technical training on state of the art equipment. 

Despite the addition of several new buildings, DACC maintains a ratio of square footage per full time student that is the lowest in the state.  While we have been efficient and good stewards of tax dollars, the result is that our facilities are heavily utilized; therefore required maintenance needs arise more quickly.  Additionally, our Central Campus at NMSU is in dire need of upgrades to ensure energy efficiencies and long term structural integrity.  These maintenance upgrades and structural modifications will afford us the opportunity to discuss future programming needs. While the structural needs and efficiencies have been determined, the programing needs have not been determined and will be determined, if the mill passes, through a process involving faculty, staff and administrators at DACC.

The debt service bond would also allow us to expand the Workforce Center in Las Cruces and move advanced technology programs to one location. The vacated space on the Central Campus resulting from the move of advanced technology programs to the Workforce Center will allow opportunities for expanding existing career and technical programs at the Central Campus and possibly expanding our Arts programs consistent with community and workforce needs. Additional considerations include adding classrooms to the Gadsden Learning Center to expand course offerings to students in the South County who are unable to travel to Las Cruces.  This expansion would allow us to consider offering degree and certificate programs at that location. The last capital project includes funding site improvements to the East Mesa Campus. This involves the relocation of the electrical lines to allow for further expansion of the campus when needed and the creation of a second entrance off Sonoma Ranch Blvd. to improve traffic patterns entering and leaving the campus. 

If maintenance is a significant need, then why would we consider lowering our requested debit service bond from 1 mill to .75 mills?  Our Facilities Master Plan (available in SharePoint) sets forth the institution’s facility needs and priorities.  Based upon our Facilities Master Plan, we determined that lowering our debit service request was appropriate and would not compromise our facility priorities and needs.  Lowering our debit service request allows us to seek an increase in our operational mill of .25 to help address our declining tuition revenue which is directly related to decreases in enrollment and increases in dual enrollment offerings without raising the total current tax rate.  (Note: offering fewer dual enrollment courses does not result in a direct correlation of increasing our tuition generating courses. On-campus/learning center enrollment and dual enrollment are two very different populations with different course offering needs; therefore, changes in one does not necessary result in changes in the other. Dual enrollment courses do generate revenue from the HED – Higher Education Department – funding formula, however not sufficient enough revenue to offset the cost of offering the courses and supporting the students).

Should our request for a .25 mill be approved, the result would be an increase in operating revenue of approximately $940,000 based upon tax valuations in the County. The additional operating revenue would off-set the present loss in tuition revenue based upon declining enrollment.  Consequently, approval of a .25 mill levy will help us to maintain current and vita operations, services, and programs to our students during a decline in the enrollment cycles.  Additional operational funding will also allow us to examine ways to meet workforce training and development needs in sales, transportation, skilled trades and the health care sector just to name a few. 

DACC operations, services and programing are funded based upon revenue from tuition, the State of New Mexico and the mil levy.  The Adult Basic Education and the Small Business Development Center receive funding from grants and the state and these funds support these vital programs.  Additionally, our career and technical education programs receive support from the Carl Perkins Grant.   All of these funding sources are essential for us to continue to carry out our mission of being a responsive and accessible learning-centered community college that provides educational opportunities to a diverse community of learners in support of workforce and economic development. 

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Governor Martinez's State of the State Address

Governor Martinez delivered her annual State of the State address to the 52nd Congress of the great state of New Mexico on Tuesday, January 20, 2015.  You can read an article on the State of the State address by clicking this link to the Santa Fe New Mexican. Her theme of "Progress over Politics" was well woven throughout her speech.  She challenged lawmakers to choose, "progress over politics", "courage over comfort, change over stagnation, reform over the status quo."  Words of hope during an era in American politics on both the federal and state level marked by strong partisanship and deepening divides between political parties resulting in gridlock.  The failure to solve our country's challenges serves no one.  So, over the next sixty days, I will be watching the New Mexico legislature to see whether or not this era in New Mexican politics, with the Republican Party controlling the House of Representatives for the first time since 1952, can buck the status quo and address the issues of importance to New Mexicans.  Can divided government in New Mexico set aside their differences and focus on area of agreement? 

As I sat on the floor of the House of Representatives, I listened intently to hear our Governor's vision for education in New Mexico.  Governor Martinez said, "Because education is what plants the seeds of wonder, of curiosity, of excitement in a child; points them to opportunities and goals, inspires dreams about careers, and about better days; gives them hope." It was a spoken thought that I found myself in total agreement. She recognizes the link between a well trained work force and economic development.  Attracting new businesses to New Mexico hinges on several factors and as educators, we contribute to one pillar, a well trained work force. 

So, over the next sixty days the 52nd New Mexico Congress will consider higher education funding, potential changes to the lottery scholarship, workforce development legislation, Right to Work, and regulatory reform.  The decision made over the next sixty days will impact DACC students.  The most important need DACC students have is to know that a good paying job awaits them upon graduation.  May this legislature have the courage to choose progress over politics and ensure the economic future of New Mexico as they debate and pass legislation. 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

U.S. Department of Education Proposes College Rating System

The U.S. Department of Education has proposed a rating system for colleges to help families and potential students determine whether or not the colleges and universities they are considering rank highly as compared to their peers. To read more click here:  (U.S. Department of Education).   I am completely supportive of accountability in higher education.  After all, higher education institutions receive millions and billions of dollars in tuition, state revenue, and grants.  However, do we need another rating system? 

Consider that institutions of higher education already must be accredited by federal regulated regional accrediting associations in order to accept Title IV funding for students eligible for federal financial aid.  The process of institutional accreditation ensures that higher education institutions are reviewed against a set of standards established by a regional accrediting body.  Further, many degree programs within a higher education institution also seek and receive specialized accreditation for degree program.  The specialized accreditation ensures that the degree program meets industry established standards that signal to potential students and families that the program meets high standards.  Regional accreditation for institutions and speciality accreditation for programs have been in place for many, many years.  Each of these accreditation processes require institutional resources to collect data, analyze data, and write a self-study to document how the institution or program meets the standards.  The claims in the self-study are verified by a team of reviewers who visit the institution to verify the claims.  This peer review ensures academic integrity and honesty. 

Consequently, I wonder whether or not another rating system will provide the information necessary to help families and potential students evaluate whether or not the higher education institution they are considering is worthy of consideration.  In addition to accreditation information that is available to potential students and families, there is information at the state level that compares higher education institutions within the state on essential measures that often include data on retention, completion, STEM-H (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics and Health) degrees awarded and other matrix important to state officials.  Further, the U.S. Department of Education already requires gainful employment information for certificates awarded by higher education institutions.  Gainful employment information tells the public how well the graduates in these certificate programs are doing with finding employment within their field.  Certainly, there is already a plethora of information available to families and students for their use in determining the value and quality of a higher education institution. 

I want to reiterate my support for accountability and evaluation in higher education.  However, additional regulatory responsibilities for reporting, such as the newly proposed rating system by the U.S. Department of Education, requires institutional resources to collect, analyze and report the data required to address the "report card".  These institutional resources continue to add to the cost of delivering a degree or certificate program to the students resulting in higher tuition.  I would rather see the U.S. Department of Education help families and students use existing evaluation processes - accreditation, gainful employment, and state metrics - to evaluate institutions of higher education than to create another rating system that will require additional institutional resources, and yet not create knowledgeable consumers. 

The 2015 Legislative Session Begins

As a former middle and high school social studies teacher, history and political science has always been a passion. As a college professor who prepared social studies teachers, I continued my love of history and political science. As a college administrator, government relations is part of the job. It is part of the job I enjoy. Today I have the wonderful opportunity to attend the first session of the House of Representatives in New Mexico as the guest of Representative Nunez. Wow...I am excited with anticipation.

I have been called to testify at committee hearings in Michigan. I have met with state and national senators and representatives and felt pride at doing my civic duty. But, today, being on the floor of the people's house is an honor. As I walked through the Capitol today, I could feel the difference from previous trips when I attended committee hearings. Today, New Mexicans were in their house. The building was full. People were greeting their representatives with cards and literature, exercising their voice. It was good to see the people sharing what was important to them with the people they elected to represent them.

Events of September 11 have kept the people and government at a distance for security reasons. Understandable, but regrettable. As I walked the Roundhouse looking for my representatives to say hello and share my concerns, I couldn't help but think of President Andrew Jackson. During his presidency people inundated  the White House. He is sometimes thought of as the common man's president. President Lincoln often spent hours shaking hands of visitors who walked through the White House during one of the darkest periods of our history. Today in Santa Fe, I was reminded of Lincols's words, "We are a Government of the people, by the people, for the people."

Saturday, January 10, 2015

America's College Promise

On Friday, January 9th at Pellissippi State Community College, President Obama unveiled his"America's College Promise" proposal that would provide free tuition for students to attend America's community colleges. It is not surprising that President Obama continues to draw America's attention to community colleges.  This administration has consistently recognized the role that community college's play in workforce training and development.  Whether or not Congress drafts and passes legislation that enacts President Obama's "America's College Promise" lies in the future.  However, the spirit of President Obama's "promise" is already happening at DACC. 

For example, DACC recently announced a wonderful partnership with El Paso Electric that provides scholarships for potential students wishing to become lineworkers.  El Paso Electric has invested in its future and the future of the Dona Ana workforce by providing scholarships for students who qualify for admission to the program.  For more information about the program contact the DACC Admissions Office at:  575-527-7710. 

While President Obama is seeking to make community college attendance free, community college attendance is presently very affordable. Over seventy percent of DACC students receive some type of federal aid whether that be Pell grant, loans or wages as a qualified student worker. The challenge for many of our students reaches beyond paying for college. Many are in need of part time jobs to support their families while they attend school. Others need affordable housing. Still others need affordable child care.  Adults returning to school face many challenges beyond paying for tuition. DACC remains committed to finding ways to support our student. I applause President Obama for recognizing the role community colleges play in workforce training and development.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

What is Armistice Day? a.k.a Veterans Day?

Colonel Thomas Gowenlock, recipient of the Distinguished Service Metal, served as an intelligence officer in the American Expeditionary Forces, First Division. (1) He was on the front line on November 11th, 1918 and wrote of his experience a few years later: 

"On the morning of November 11, I sat in my dugout in Le Gros Faux, which was again our division headquarters, talking to our Chief of Staff, Colonial John Greely, an d Lieutenant Colonel Paul Peaboyd, our G-1. A signal corps officer entered and handed us the following message:" (2)

Official Radio from Paris - 6:01 A.M., Nov. 11, 1918.
Marshal Foch to the Commander-in-Chief.
1. Hostilities will be stopped on the entire front beginning at 11 o'clock, November 11th (French hour).
2. The Allied troops will not go beyond the line reached at that hour on that date until further orders.

{signed}, Marshal Foch
5:45 A.M. (2)

Colonial Gowenlock continued: "My watch said nine o'clock. With only two hours to go, I drove over to the bank of the Meuse River to see the finish. The shelling was heavy and, as I walked down the road, it grew steadily worse. It seemed to me that every battery in the world was trying to burn up its guns. At last eleven o'clock came - but the firing continued. The men on both sides had decided to give each other all they had - their farewell to arms.......All over the world on November 11, 1918, people were celebrating, dancing in the streets, drinking champagne, hailing the armistice that meant the end of the war. But at the front there was no celebration." (3)

Colonel Gowenlock speaks of the agreement to end World War I, known as the Great War.  The fighting (in theory) ended at 11:00 a.m. on the 11th day of the 11th month. 

On May 13, 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed legislation making November 11th the official date for Armistice Day.  In 1953 a movement took place within the United States to broaden out the meaning of Armistice Day to recognize all veterans.  On May 26, 1954, former General, then President Dwight Eisenhower signed into law a bill making November 11th an annual celebration for all veterans.  The day is now known as Veterans Day.

Today we pause to remember all veterans of past military wars.  We honor the thousands of men and women, who have dedicated their lives to serving our country at home and abroad.  We at DACC say thank you to all veterans for your leadership and service. 

(1) http://projects.militarytimes.com/citations-medals-awards/recipient.php?recipientid=17597 (accessed, November 10, 2014).
(2) Armstice - The End of World War I, 1918. http://www.eyewitnesstohistory.com/armistice.htm (accessed, November 10, 2014).
(3) http://www.historywiz.com/alliedvictory.htm (accessed, November 10, 2014).

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Lerdo Exchange

I remember stepping off the airplane in Amsterdam, Netherlands for the first time.  The airport looked familiar as all airports have a common flow.  However, the signage was in Dutch.  I was traveling with a group of athletes as we were about to embark on a 30 day adventure to the Netherlands and Germany playing basketball and softball.  It was my first trip to Europe.  It would not be my last. 

Last week  Doña Ana Community College hosted students and their advisers from Centro de Bachillerato Technológico Industrial y de Servicios Número 4 (CBTis 4) of Ciudad Lerdo, Durango, Mexico.  Our guests arrived on Wednesday, October 29th.  These guests spend six days engaged in actives designed to foster understanding of American culture.  In turn we who had opportunities to meet with and talk with our guests also learned about Mexican culture.  On Monday, November 2nd we say Adios to our guests.  We shared hugs and tears and promises that we would see them again in the spring. 

The hope of a future reuniting is strong as the partnership between DACC and CBTis 4 has spanned 32 years.  This exchange precedes the designation of Lerdo as a sister city to the City of Las Cruces by seven years. 

Lerdo is located 550 miles south of Las Cruces.  Ciudad lerdo is similar to Cruces.  Both cities embrace agriculture and celebrate festivals celebrating agricultural products.  Both cities produce wine.  Lerdo is located near the Nazas River much like Cruces is located near the Rio Grande.  While the cities share much in common our guests from Mexico are much like us.  As human beings we share a love of music, food, culture and fellowship. 

I look forward to the opportunity to visit Lerdo in May with a delegation from DACC.