The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

By Lee Revis
Editor, Valdez Star 

Taking the community out of college

UAA president asks regents to turn PWSCC into university satellite


Prince William Sound Community College may be dropping the word community from its title.

The pending change will come before the board of regents for the University of Alaska later this week at the behest of of UA president Pat Gamble, who said in letter addressed to the College Council late last month that he is recommending PWSCC “drop separate accreditation and join the ranks of sister community campuses as the Prince William Sound College of the University of Alaska Anchorage…”

Its proposed new name will be Prince William Sound College.

Pam Shirrell, chair of the college council, and Dorothy Moore, vice-chair, addressed the Valdez City Council Monday with the concerns the local advisory body has on the proposal.

Shirrell said the idea has floating through the school and its governing bodies for several months. During that time the UA officials have told the college council it would provide documents and information, such as a line by line comparison of the current community college status versus how it would look as a satellite campus of UAA, but such supporting documents have not been forthcoming.

“We have not got what we requested up to this time,” Shirrell told the council.

Moore said she did not how the change would improve the quality of education at the school and shared worries that traditional events sponsored by the college might be relocated or eliminated from Valdez if the change occurs. Moore also said she feared that specific higher educational needs of Valdez might suffer if the school becomes a satellite campus of UAA rather than keep its current status as a community college.

“I have real concerns,” she told the council.

Public commentary will be allowed at the meeting Shirrell said. She also told the council that she believed the regents were prepared to act on Gamble’s recommendation but it was important that Valdez go on the record with its concerns over PWSCC dropping its separate accreditation.

The meeting of the board of regents is slated to occur June 5-6 at the Lee Gorsuch Commons on the University of Alaska Anchorage campus.

Mayor Dave Cobb said he is against the proposal and said he shared concerns about losing local autonomy. He said he was especially concerned about the fate of the dual credit program that allows Valdez High School students to earn college credits.

For its part, UAA said in the letter that the college would maintain autonomy while shedding ever-increasing administrative requirements to maintain its accreditation.

Gamble’s letter also said he will recommend that Dan O’Connor, the current interim president, be named campus director.

O’Connor replaced Chris Washko, who was named interim president after the abrupt mid-year departure of former president Jacob Ng.

The college council members and Cobb endorsed O’Connor in both roles.

John Hozey, city manager, said he had met with university officials and discussed the matter at length, and has an understanding of the problems the college will face in trying to maintain its community college status.

“It’s kind of between a rock and a hard place,” he said. “I don’t know how to avoid it, frankly.”

Shirrell said the college council had met informally with the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the accrediting body, and that the consensus was that PWSCC was not in danger of not being able to meet the higher standards of accreditation.


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