On Aug. 28-30, the Colorado Mountain College (CMC) board of trustees held its regular meeting and annual planning retreat in Salida and Leadville. They reviewed and discussed a third party feasibility study, which CMC commissioned at the request of the Moffat County Affiliated Junior College District, regarding the potential of annexing that taxing district with CMC’s. At the time, the trustees determined that more clarity was needed, specifically when it came to Moffat County constituents’ understanding and willingness to join the CMC district.
When The Sopris Sun initially covered the study in February, it reported that the communities of Salida and Poncha Springs had successfully joined the CMC district in recent years. The Moffat study is an ongoing one that could take several years.
As reported in the Craig Daily Press in December 2022 (when the study was launched), the intent is to “explore the possibility for Moffat County to move from the state network under Colorado Northwestern Community College (CNCC) into a local network under CMC.”
The former vice president and campus dean of CMC Spring Valley and Glenwood Springs, Heather Exby, is serving as the Special Project Coordinator for the study. She explained that the trustees have had a mindful approach and are doing their best to be aware of all aspects and unanswered questions. She said that the idea of annexation into the community of Moffat County is complex. “[It’s] not an easy slam dunk, yes or no decision for the trustees to make,” she relayed.
In a PowerPoint regarding the study, it’s noted that “A vocal group of Craig leaders is dissatisfied with CNCC operations, feels promises were broken and [the] college actively inhibits Craig campus growth,” which explains the reason behind the study.
The “upside,” according to the PowerPoint, is that “The Craig campus could thrive as a regional education center for both Moffat and Routt counties and, in addition to potential additional commuters, CMC could pursue the types of affordable student housing development there that it is undertaking in its other communities, but at a lower cost. Such investments could allay local concerns about inadequate investment in the Craig location.”
At the same token, there are some associated risks. “It could prove challenging to attract large numbers of additional students to Craig and expensive to maintain relatively large and empty academic buildings,” reads the PowerPoint. “The community could come to feel similar resentment toward CMC as an ‘absentee landlord’ as it does for CNCC.”
“With the interesting economic challenges that the Moffat County community is currently facing, plus the fact that there is already an existing college whose statutory duty is to serve that area, the Trustees felt they needed to hear more broadly on how their community perceives their current situation and what exactly it is that they would want from CMC,” Exby summarized.
“The Trustees will do their best to address this complex annexation question mindfully and sensitively. What happens going forward is up to the people of Moffat County,” Exby stated.
In other news
The trustees unanimously approved a contract to construct four new parking lots at CMC’s Steamboat Springs Campus, something that Exby explained was directly related to the construction of new student housing on that campus.
“[The Steamboat Springs Campus] has a very tight footprint, so the new student apartments took out a parking lot,” she elaborated. “They found it necessary to replace that lost parking lot with additional parking.”
The retreat in August also focused on implementing CMC’s new strategic plan for 2023-2030, titled “Mountain Futures.” Over that time, the college is committed to enhancing equity, care, innovation and integrity. For more on the strategic plan, visit www.bit.ly/MountainFutures
During a recent work session, the trustees reviewed new data that showed enrollment is up approximately 11% over the last year. Additionally, enrollment among students identifying as Hispanic or Latino is up nearly 15% and concurrent enrollment is up more than 18%. This data indicates that the number of students is approaching pre-pandemic levels.