WyoTech

Efforts to keep WyoTech open in Laramie continue to gain momentum as a private party enters the stage with a proposal to purchase the institution and continue courses with a for-profit model.

Jim Mathis, a former WyoTech student, instructor and president, said he drafted a proposal to acquire the WyoTech Laramie campus and presented it to the Education Credit Management Corporation, which owns several nonprofit colleges nationwide including WyoTech.

“I bleed WyoTech blood,” Mathis said. “I started off as a student at WyoTech and was teaching there by 19 years old. I became the campus president in 1996, and left in 2002 when it was sold to Corinthian (Colleges). Anything I can do to help this community and WyoTech — I want to do it.”

While he did not reveal the details of the deal, Mathis’ potential acquisition of the school could be aided by a $5 million low-interest loan from the Legislative Stabilization Reserve Account.

Senate File No. 1 included a section regarding a school fitting WyoTech’s description and geographical location without naming WyoTech specifically.

The section would allow Gov. Matt Mead and the Wyoming Business Council “to solicit proposals for the continued operation of an automotive technology trade school.”

Additionally, the bill grants Mead the ability to approve a $5 million grant or loan for either a private entity or a community college to cover costs for WyoTech’s first year of operation. Approved by both the House and Senate, SF No. 1 is currently awaiting Mead’s signature.

“We did not initiate that,” Mathis said. “I know a lot of people may think we requested the Legislature add that in there, but we were called over by the legislators for an interview and were just as surprised as anybody.”

Laramie County Community College has also presented a proposal for absorbing WyoTech into its curriculum after the Education Credit Management Corporation closes the institution’s doors in June. For the community college to take over WyoTech, LCCC President Joe Schaffer previously said the city of Laramie and Albany County would need to provide the campus about $750,000 annually.

Mathis said his proposal would not require a financial commitment from local governments.

“When Jim was president, I felt like the business lended itself to the private for-profit model,” said Tim Stamp, a former Laramie Economic Development Corporation president who is assisting Mathis with the proposal.

Mathis added, “That was my initial concern with this proposal. We were told by local sources that (Education Credit Management Corporation) was not open to for-profit proposals, but we reached out to the CEO and he said he would work with anybody right now.”

While Mathis’ proposal competes with LCCC’s, he said it would not have been possible without them.

“If it wasn’t for LCCC doing all the work to keep this alive, neither of us would’ve ended up with this,” Mathis said.

With the help of another investor, he said he was able to raise the initial funding for the proposal and create a five-year plan for WyoTech’s future.

“We are not in this thing to build it up and sell it,” Mathis said. “We want to look at this long-term and make sure it’s sustainable for the community, the industry, WyoTech, the students and all who are involved.”

He did not name the other investor, but said the investor was a Wyoming resident.

In the next five years, Mathis said he would like WyoTech to staff about 200 full-time employees and enroll about 1,100 students annually. The school would also continue its legacy of volunteerism throughout the community, he said.

Mathis’ proposal is currently being reviewed by Education Credit Management Corporation and would need the Wyoming Business Council’s recommendation before being eligible for the LSRA loan.

“(Education Credit Management Corporation) hasn’t given us approval yet, but we’re pretty optimistic about the deal,” Mathis said.

Stamp said WyoTech needs Mathis’ drive to ensure the school not only remains open but returns to its years as an education powerhouse in the for-profit world.

“That ability to move quickly, adjust your curriculum, know how to market to the right students that fit the culture and fit the identity of WyoTech is a critical component that (Mathis) brings to the table,” he said.

(8) comments

Brett Glass

This is absolutely the last thing the community should want. Wyotech, under Mathis and then under Warpness (both of whom were big contributors to Stamp's salary at LEDC), engaged in unsavory and sometimes illegal business practices as a private "college" (it's really not a college but a vocational training outfit). These practices were detailed in a lawsuit filed by the California Attorney general (you can find information about the suit online) and resulted in the dissolution of Corinthian Colleges, the corporation which owned Wyotech. Among other things, it used the seals of the US Armed Forces in its advertising without permission; falsified job placement numbers; brought criminals into our community; and looked the other way and attempted to gloss it over when they committed crimes here. We should all favor the plan to allow LCCC to annex Wyotech and fight against the old guard, who did our city great harm, returning and continuing to do so.

Johnmurphy

Who owns the land where the campus is? If it goes “for profi” there should be substantial taxes to be paid. I want to save it too, but wonder what the landlord says about all this. Have they trashed the new dorms like they did on McCue Street? We spent over 1M in repairs.

Brett Glass

I believe that the land where Wyotech is now located was sold to them below market value by the city, through LEDC, using taxpayer money as a subsidy. John Ahrenholtz, a local businessman, originally planned to create a campus for Wyotech that was safely outside of town to the north - and, hence, would have kept Wyotech inmates at a safe distance. But Ahrenholtz made the mistake of going to LEDC - which claimed to offer advice to local businesses that wanted to grow - for help in doing this. The executive director of LEDC unethically asked for a personal piece of the action. When Ahrenholtz said no, LEDC undermined Ahrenholtz' plans by arranging for Wyotech to purchase the land where it now sits. Mathis then hired the Executive Director, and a new director was hired to run LEDC: Tim Stamp. Stamp maintained a close relationship with Wyotech, which was a big donor to LEDC, after that.

This proposed deal would be a continuation of the cronyism. What's more, according to the article above, they are looking for yet ANOTHER government subsidy... all to enrich people who have acted unethically and harmed our community. We should fight this.

whipnspur

Jim Mathis is a man of great integrity and Wyotech is near and dear to his heart I believe. He ran Wyo-Tech or many years and is very business minded and can run it efficiently while providing students a quality education. Those students are in huge demand in our area. I young people have to attend school out of the area, they might not come back and we will be in dire need of mechanics, worse than we already are. Jim Mathis will make a Wyo-Tech the great educational facility that it previously was and probably better.

GrowordieLaramie

Mr. Glass has again mis-characterized the WyoTech/Ahrenholtz saga, but we have become used to his perspective. The good news is that the private sector solution will not cost taxpayers. This is the best option for Laramie.

Brett Glass

The facts of the Wyotech/Ahrenholtz saga are well known; in fact, they are laid out in court documents that can be found online with a simple search. According to the court, none of the parties disputed the account in those documents. It clearly shows that LEDC - an "economic development corporation" that in truth operates not for the benefit of Laramie but for the benefit of a small group of cronies who give it money - defrauded Ahrenholtz for the benefit of Wyotech, which at the time was headed by Mr. Mathis. And, as documented in the Boomerang, the Executive Director of LEDC was rewarded for doing this with a lucrative job at Wyotech.

We must ensure that any private sector actors who attempt to take over Wyotech are honest. This group demonstrated its dishonesty in its treatment of not only Ahrenholtz but also Wyotech's trainees/inmates. (Again, use your favorite search engine to search for the phrase "Wyotech scam.") They should not be allowed to take over Wyotech once more, and certainly should not receive a government subsidy for doing so.

Jgod

The information available at Wyotech is invaluable. Future generations cannot just fall into the field anymore and need to learn these trades to keep America turning, our industry is dying and our country is in decay. The faculty at this facility are friends and neighbors in this community. They deserve help in doing so and teaching future generations to as well, however I have always believed the for profit agenda is 100% the issue with this school. I believe The community college should run it, but it has to maintain the individuality of continuing certificate programs alongside degree programs. We all need to consider without this information being passed down the void in this community, the economy locally and nation wide that will be left. Corinthian deserves to Crumble for their predatory ways, but there is a need for this school or they couldn’t have manipulated people as they have.

David Meadows-Class of 83

As Jgod above said: The information available at Wyotech is invaluable. I graduated from this Laramie school in 1983 as a Diesel Technician. Following graduation I was immediately hired by Chevrolet. I was later laid off but only after completing a full year of employment and because I was a Second Shift employee working in a scarce customer environment. The education along with my experience and drive allowed me to move forward and beyond my future imagination. I worked in many mechanical fields along the way including work with natural gas and aircraft engines. Maybe the school has changed over the years since I was there but I am greatly appreciative of the extremely knowledgeable instructors and their vast resources and training materials that were available during my attendance. You can view my background on my Facebook page. David Meadows. Norco, CA. Thank you Wyoming Technical Institute, of Laramie, WY

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