College board votes to close 3 degree programs

Low enrollment and costs contribute to the discontinuation of machining, outdoor leadership and education and renewable energy degree programs.

Joshua Kellogg
A San Juan College student practices mountain bike handling skills in 2009 in Moab, Utah, through the school’s
outdoor leadership, education and recreation program.

FARMINGTON – Members of the San Juan College Board voted to discontinue three degree programs that have experienced low enrollment and increasing costs.

Board members voted unanimously to discontinue the renewable energy, machining and outdoor leadership, education and recreation associate degree programs during their meeting tonight.

It was the first time board members have voted to eliminate any degree programs since Toni Pendergrass became president of the college in July 2012.

In recommending to the board that the programs be discontinued, Pendergrass said they were evaluated and assessed with the results shared with board members during a Dec. 9 meeting.

"Based on the assessment, the degree programs were not meeting the needs of the students and community," Pendergrass said during the meeting.

In an interview before the board meeting, Board Chairman Ken Hare said the board is always evaluating college programs for growth opportunities, and programs like the renewable energy degree were declining.

“We had two full-time instructors in renewable energy, and we had four students,” Hare said. “The program just didn’t grow. What we are interested in is, ‘Where is the opportunity for students?'”

Hare said the jobs created for solar panel installation in the region are temporary, leaving about two employees to maintain the equipment.

“During a construction period, you have jobs, but when it’s done, all those jobs leave,” Hare said.

The programs were evaluated as part of the college’s comprehensive review process, which involed looking at a program’s enrollment, its return on investment and job placement of graduates in the community.

Courses in the outdoor leadership, education and recreation degree program are currently offered as recreational courses through the college’s Community Learning Center.

Renewable energy courses related to maintenance of solar panels might be introduced into the instrumentation control and electrical degree program, according to Barbara Ake, the college's vice president for learning.

The college staff is exploring options to implement a new manufacturing degree to ensure machining businesses in the region have their job placement needs met.

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