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Legislature likely watching SC special election results closely

SHERIDAN — At a City Council work session Monday, Sheridan College President Dr. Paul Young noted that Sheridan College has been ranked as one of the fastest growing community colleges in the nation by Community College Week magazine for the last few years.

The work session focused on Sheridan College “by the numbers” and was the second of three scheduled sessions to explore the college’s request for a general issue bond to raise money to expand and renovate its technical education center.

In 2010, Community College Week magazine ranked Sheridan College the third fastest growing college with enrollment between 2,500 and 4,999, noting that it grew 26 percent from 2007 to 2008. In 2012, Sheridan College was ranked 11th for growth, increasing 10.5 percent from 2010 to 2011.

Young said he thinks part of the growth can be attributed to past investments in college capacity. Since 1976, the college has made $48 million in capital improvements on its campus. Sixty-six percent of those funds have come from private donors and local foundations, 33 percent have been state funds and 1 percent have been collected through local tax.

During his presentation, Young said that expanding the tech center is part of a long-range master plan for the college and that the college has been diligent over the years in securing funding from the state, private donors and local foundations as much as possible.

“There’s more to do after the tech center, but we need the public to help us with this tech center because I think others are watching,” Young said.

He later said he’s been told the state Legislature will be watching the results of the special election to see if the community of Sheridan is willing to invest in supporting the college, which could influence how much the state is willing to invest in the college.

Another part of the college’s rapid growth can be attributed to the need for higher education to get good jobs.

“I think also with the downturn in the economy, people realize this point I’ve been trying to make that you need more education to be competitive both locally and globally,” Young said.

Young cited a study that compared employment rates before, during and after the most recent recession. He said that workers with only a high school diploma lost jobs before, during and after the recession, while workers with a certificate, two-year or four-year degree gained jobs during and after the recession. He also noted that in the 1970s, 70 percent of jobs could be done with a high school education. That number is now 30 percent.

“The point of the data is that education matters,” Young said.

At the end of the work session, Mayor Dave Kinskey said he realizes how vital the college is to job growth.

“Our three highest priorities are jobs, jobs and jobs,” Kinskey said.

The special election to issue a $15.8 million general issue bond will be held Aug. 20. Absentee voting is in process. It is estimated that the bond issue would raise property taxes $2.09 per $100,000 of property owned per month. The bond will help fund renovation of the college’s current tech center and the addition of 27,205 square feet of new tech space for education in welding, machine tooling and diesel mechanics.

About

Hannah Wiest is the government and outdoors reporter for The Sheridan Press. She has lived in Colorado and Montana but loves her sunny home state of Wyoming best. She joined The Press staff in February 2013.

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