SHERIDAN — The Northern Wyoming Community College District has withdrawn a recently-approved request for city funding in order to explore new opportunities for growth, according to NWCCD President Dr. Paul Young.
Sheridan’s City Council passed a resolution Monday allocating $250,000 to the NWCCD to fulfill a request the district made for funding to hire a new instructor for Sheridan College’s machine tool technology program. Young sent a letter to Sheridan Mayor Roger Miller Thursday declining those funds, explaining that the NWCCD has recently been presented with opportunities that may require the redeployment of its training resources.
“It’s requiring us to rethink where our highest level of need is in terms of new instructional capacity,” Young told The Press. Young explained that demand is increasing for graduates from all of Sheridan College’s technical programs, particularly with the growth of Sheridan’s manufacturing companies. The new economic development opportunity the college has been presented — which Young he could not discuss the details of yet — could go toward expanding any of the college’s technical trade programs, not just machine tools.
“This is just a question of which boiling pot do we respond to with the limited resources we have,” Young said.
NWCCD’s original request was aimed at hiring another machine tools instructor to provide more training to adult and part-time students, and Young said the college would likely still focus on expanding its offerings to nontraditional students should it secure funding through this new opportunity.
“Our faculty right now are all focused on full-time students,” Young said. “I’d love to have a faculty who’s working on programs for part-time students. If you’ve already got a job, and you can’t go to school full time because you can’t leave the job, I really can’t help you (right now), because the college runs on full-time students.”
In Young’s letter to the mayor, he asked for the opportunity to make another request once the NWCCD has a better idea of how it can best utilize additional economic development funding.
The city’s support has been, and will continue to be, crucial to Sheridan College’s economic development efforts, Young said. He explained that it is difficult to grow programs without outside assistance because the college can only increase to hire new instructors by enrolling new students, but it needs to hire new instructors before it can enroll more students.
“It’s very unusual for a city to be supportive of direct investment in a college, so we’re very grateful for their support,” Young said.
City council approved the NWCCD’s request with a 3-2 vote Monday, with Miller voting against it after a motion he made to table the request was defeated.
Miller said he had hoped to table the request so the city could get a better picture of its finances in the coming year before committing more money and that he believed the NWCCD’s decision would give both the city and Sheridan College more flexibility moving forward.
“I appreciate the community awareness that Sheridan College has in understanding there are multiple needs across the community,” Miller said. “It’s a great gesture for the college to do that at this time so we can have a little more time as a city to look at some of the other funding aspects that we definitely have to look at in the next few months.”
He added that while the city has available contingency funding in revenue from the city’s Optional One-Cent Sales Tax, there are a number of expenses that would require that funding that could come up in the coming months. With more time, Miller said the city would also have time to work with businesses that could benefit from expanded training programs and entities like Sheridan County and the Wyoming Business Council and potentially form partnerships that could assist the college.
“There is so much more going on finance-wise with the city that I think it’s a great step on the college’s part and Dr. Young’s part,” Miller said. “…And I look forward to readdressing the issue in the next few months.”
Young said the NWCCD will likely have more details on its new economic development opportunity within the next six months.