The Albany County Commission committed to looking into ways to support a partnership between Laramie County Community College and WyoTech on Friday during a special meeting where the commission approved a resolution outlining the partnership.
LCCC started putting the partnership together after Educational Credit Management Corporation announced in November WyoTech would not enroll any new students and would close its doors after the current courses are completed in June.
In exchange for the community college taking on several of WyoTech’s operations, ECMC would donate several assets to them, LCCC President Joe Schaffer said Tuesday.
“LCCC and WyoTech have very similar programs — we are even accredited by the same accrediting agency — what differentiates us is the way we offer it,” Schaffer said. “We asked (WyoTech) to donate all the physical assets within the two WyoTech buildings to LCCC — vehicles, trainers, technology, equipment and furniture.”
In the resolution Friday, the County Commission agreed to explore local options to assist LCCC in funding about $750,000 a year for WyoTech’s operational costs during the next four years.
Albany County Commission Chairman Tim Chesnut said the county would look into different ways to fund WyoTech if a partnership is established.
“I don’t want people to think that the city or the county is going to be able to support this with our budgets, because our budgets aren’t big enough to support this,” Chesnut said. “(Support) would have to come from the people of Albany County.”
Part of the funding plan includes annexing Albany County into LCCC’s community college district. Supporting it was left off of the county’s resolution because the county didn’t time to learn more about the annexation, Albany County Attorney Peggy Trent said.
“There was discussion, as you would recall, at the Tuesday meeting — and I believe it was also brought up again (Friday) by LCCC — about the annexation of Albany County into the community college district that currently exists in Laramie County,” Trent said. “This is being rushed through this week. We need to slow it down to figure out local funding (options).”
Schaffer presented the County Commission with the plan for the partnership Tuesday and asked the commission to support the plan, but they were unable to take action on it because the commission didn’t have public input. Since then, several community members told the commission they think the county should agree to help the partnership, Chesnut said.
“I got a barrage of emails (from people saying) they were supportive of this,” he said. “The one thing that bothered me a little was … people saying do this and don’t do the land deal. They are two separate issues, the land deal would have a totally different source of fundraising.”
Several members of the public voiced their concerns Friday about losing the school such as Albany County School District Board of Education Trustee Dona Coffey. Coffey, who was not representing the board of education at the time, said the loss of WyoTech would remove educational options from students who don’t plan to go to college.
“One of the things I hear from parents as a school board member is that while a lot of kids go to college, there are kids that don’t want to go to college,” Coffey said. “If we lose WyoTech, there will be one less thing that we will have as an educational opportunity for our people.”
Albany County Commissioner Heber Richardson said because WyoTech plays an important role in the state’s economy, he is ready to make sure it stays open, whether it is through partnering with LCCC or accepting an offer from the private sector.
“Last week I was speaking to an operations manager of a big excavating company from Campbell County … and he said in the old days you could teach somebody how to change oil, belts, hoses, grease something, tear apart a rearend and rebuild it,” Richardson said. “Technology advanced to the point where they can only teach somebody to a certain point (before they have to go to school for it).”