SJC board to vote on cutting degree programs

Joshua Kellogg
Scott Smalley scales the climbing wall in December at the San Juan College Health and Human Performance Center in Farmington. The college's Board is considering discontinuing the school's outdoor leadership, education and recreation associate degree program.

FARMINGTON — The future of three degree programs at San Juan College will be voted on during the college Board meeting on Tuesday.

Board members are scheduled to vote on discontinuing the machining, renewable energy and outdoor leadership, education and recreation associate degree programs, according to college President Toni Pendergrass.

This will be the first time board members will have voted on eliminating any degree programs since Pendergrass started at the college in 2012. San Juan College currently has 164 degree and certificate programs.

Pendergrass said the decisions about whether to eliminate the degree programs will be very complex.

“We have to meet with all of our partners and the students to see what is in the best interest of the college and community,” Pendergrass said.

The college staff looks at a variety of performance metrics, including a program’s enrollment, return on investment and job placement in the community.

For the renewable energy program, discussions started about three years ago on the future of the program, and the most recent enrollment count had four students taking courses, Pendergrass said. She said the college receives 42 cents back for every dollar spent on the program.

“We had very low student enrollment and low (job) placement in the community, and that initiated that discussion,” Pendergrass said.

The machining program had an average enrollment of three to five students. The equipment for the program is outdated, and it would cost the college $500,000 to replace it, Pendergrass said.

The college staff started discussions last year on transitioning the OLER program from an academic program to a recreation program run by the college’s Community Learning Center. As part of that transition, an outdoor advisory committee was formed to help the transition and help promote the outdoor programs.

The college started offering recreational courses alongside for-credit courses during the spring 2016 semester. OLER recreation courses still provide the opportunity for community members to earn certification from outside organizations.

Barbara Ake, the college's vice president for learning, said the OLER program had to “teach out” five students who remained in the program before the start of the fall 2016 semester when changes could take effect.

All students who were enrolled in the three programs have graduated with an associate degree or certificate, Pendergrass said.

No staff positions were eliminated as members of the teaching staff decided to leave to pursue other employment, she said.

The college is working on integrating courses from the renewable energy program into existing programs in the School of Energy and developing a new manufacturing degree program to fill the need left behind by the machining program.

The college staff is working with Four Corners Economic Development to look at potentially developing a new degree program to better meet the needs of machining businesses in the area.

Joshua Kellogg covers education for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627.