By Pat Caldwell
VALE — Its about the budget and enrollment.
Those are the key issues for three of the four candidates running for a slot on the Treasure Valley Community College board.
Roger Findley, R. Jed Myers, John Hall and Cydney Cooke are all vying for positions on the board in the May election.
Findley, an incumbent, faces Myers for Position No. 4 while Hall and Cooke are competing for Position No. 1.
Findley, a local farmer who lives between Vale and Ontario, said the two top issues at TVCC are connected.
“The enrollment free fall needs to be turned around and that impacts the second issue, which is the budget. Once we get enrollment up, the budget will straighten out somewhat,” he said.
He said his solution to the enrollment decline is simple.
“Recruit new students,” he said.
Yet he said the other part of the enrollment resolution is to keep students at the college.
“Our retention rate is lower than 50 percent right now. We are not doing exit interviews to find out why students are leaving,” he said.
He said another way to attract and keep students is through a variety of programs.
“We’ve got to start offering more program rather than reducing programs. We need to reverse that,” he said.
Myers, who lives in Nyssa and the vice-president of the Ontario branch of the Bank of Eastern Oregon, said his deep commitment to education is one of the reasons he is eager to clinch a seat on the board. He also agreed with Findley that the budget and enrollment are crucial issues.
As far as the budget is concerned, Myers said, officials need to tackle that challenge from several different angles.
“We need to enhance funding at the state level. That will entail getting the message out to the legislative bodies and the governor that education is important,” he said.
Other interrelated factors are important to consider as well, he said.
For example, the unemployment level in the state and surrounding counties plays a role in college enrollment. Traditionally, people who lose their jobs often chose to go back to school for a degree or training to help them get a job.
The problem, he said, is that unemployment is low.
“Statewide we have a 3.2 percent unemployment and that doesn’t bode well for college admission,” he said.
He said more online or night class might be the answer.
Myers previously served six years on the board and is currently in the middle of his current term.
Hall said one of his goals will be to help change the way the college is viewed in the community.
“I am concerned with some of the negativity that has been going around about the college. I want to see if I can do anything to get a better looking future for the college,” he said.
Hall agreed that boosting enrollment is important. Hall said he doesn’t have any answers to the enrollment and budget issues but wants to research.
“With any problem, I go in with my eyes open and I don’t know all the facts and don’t want to comment one way or another before I learn more,” he said.
Hall an Ontario resident who worked for the Farm Credit Bureau before he retired, said he believes TVCC provides several crucial services. He cited the nursing and welding programs.
He also said the college is an integral part of the community.
“I see the college as a huge asset for all of the (Treasure) valley,” he said.
Cooke could not be reached for comment.