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CWC pushing lawmakers to fund 'success project'

Feb 17, 2014 - By Katie Roenigk Staff Writer

Administrators at Central Wyoming College hope state lawmakers approve funding for at least one of the school's capital construction projects during the Legislature's current budget session.

Gov. Matt Mead did not include funding for capital construction at CWC in his budget recommendation for the coming biennium. In fact, he only requested matching funds for two out of nine projects at community colleges throughout the state: Mead asked for $14.1 million for a new technical building at Laramie County Community College and $21.9 million for a career and technical education center at Eastern Wyoming College in Torrington.

State Sen. Eli Bebout, R-Riverton, said the Legislature's Joint Appropriations Committee voted last month to expand the amount of construction money available for community college projects throughout the state.

"We did put a little money aside for ... two or three other colleges including CWC," he said. "That was a good thing."

In total, community colleges through the state requested more than $212.8 million in capital construction funding. At CWC, administrators were hoping for $2.5 million for a student success project in Riverton and $5.9 million for the Jackson Outreach Center.

CWC president Jo Anne McFarland said the Jackson project was pushed to the bottom of the construction priority list by the Wyoming Community College Commission.

Later, she said the WCCC requested student and employee data for Jackson in order to "accurately re-score" the project, which, due a glitch in the scoring criteria, reflected a "zero" score.

"We were very unhappy with being placed last for Jackson because of a kind of fluke in the funding model," she said during a recent meeting of the CWC Board of Trustees. "(We) hope that ranking system is changed in the future."

For this year, however, she said community college presidents throughout the state have recommended that the WCCC retain its current priorities.

"We're going to advocate (that) the top six or seven projects be included," she said. "We're looking at around $60 million."

The top-six list would include matching funds for CWC's student success project, she added.

"And certainly we're hoping in addition, if at all possible, that we could get some planning funding for the Jackson project," McFarland said.

She traveled to Cheyenne with other administrators last month to talk with legislators about capital construction funding.

In his budget recommendation document, Mead noted that other community college projects have merit, but he said it is difficult to know which to fund.

He suggested legislators develop a mechanism for prioritizing the projects more accurately in order to assess current needs throughout the state.

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