By Bill Knief
Last week we got a pleasant surprise. Kristine Rippel, our account representative at the Taos News, called up to say she was coming over with a check for $500 to present to The Literacy Center. It was the proceeds from the holiday Festival of Trees and Wreaths event, and since The Literacy Center is supported by UNM-Taos and housed in our administration building but is not directly funded by the community college, it was greatly appreciated.
It was also a reminder of how important the linkage is in Taos between its various institutions and the community at large. This money, which will help support the GED, adult literacy and English as a second language programs so vital to our economic and social health, came from generous individuals who took part in a fundraising event for nonprofits sponsored every year by a for profit company. That kind of collaboration, which ultimately benefits citizens striving to improve their lives, is the connective tissue that holds us all together.
What we have in our midst is a truly sustainable system. The programs offered by UNM-Taos that are funded through the legislature by taxation and other revenue streams, and by grants, and through the generosity of citizens, produce the talent pool and the expertise that help us hold our own in a difficult economy.
According to Jim Gilroy, Dean of Instruction, “I think that a role we play that is not so often seen nor is it measured by traditional academic standards is that of meeting the needs of businesses and municipal entities throughout the region. We have many needs presented to us from the town, the county, Holy Cross Hospital, the Department of Labor, the Chamber of Commerce and others on a monthly basis. And to be able to have the resources—the personnel as well as the infrastructure—in place to address those needs is critical.
“We provide the services that public and private entities need to better serve the community, to allow the advancement of their own employees, and to improve their computer and technological skills that are so badly needed today. And I feel that the money that we get from the state to carry out our mission is well matched by other resources that are attracted by a community college. For example, our students brought in 2.6 million dollars in Pell Grants alone last year, and those dollars have a multiplier effect as they circulate through our community that produces a very positive effect.
“Currently there is some conversation around eliminating some of the community colleges in our state, and honestly I think it is the wrong path to take. To eliminate rural community colleges would have a tremendous impact on the economy of the region, would produce an ill prepared workforce that has no hope of providing for improvement of that economy, and honestly lead to a certain amount of loss of morale in those rural regions. We motivate our students to do well, we tell them there are opportunities out there, we educate them and provide real opportunities for work within that community.
“Without community colleges our students will migrate not only from rural to urban areas, but out of the state completely. And I think what that does for potential long term economic development would be devastating.”
We have an extraordinary resource in our community college. If you would like to take advantage of it, there are only a few more days to sign up for spring classes It looks like we are once again going to see record numbers of enrollees, so the sooner you get started with the registration process, the better. Instruction begins January 18 and registration for 16 weeks courses ends January 28.