Merger of Some N.C. Community Colleges Is a Good Idea
As a society, what have we become? In its July 20 edition and a subsequent editorial, I was somewhat disappointed by The Pilot's reaction to the legislature's attempt at saving $5 million by merging smaller community colleges with larger units.
When it comes to reducing the state's budget deficit, the necessary reduction in spending isn't made up of one or two items. It is the accumulation of hundreds of line-item reductions that give us the desired end result. The legislature has thrown this one out for our consideration and reaction.
The Pilot isn't keen on the proposal because it will produce only a relatively paltry $5 million in annual savings. But remember: Each and every year, the initial savings continue to compound.
The Pilot goes on to say that it doesn't seem enough to justify all the turmoil and disruption involved. Really? A few $5 millions here and a few $5 millions there and, as Sen. Everett Dirksen said many years ago, "pretty soon we're talking real money."
John Dempsey, president of Sandhills Community College, indicated that the losses small communities would see as a result of the merger outweigh any potential benefits expansion would bring to the college. But SCC has a very successful satellite campus in Raeford that actually is a testimony to the very change the legislature is recommending and Dr. Dempsey is objecting to.
I object to his premise that presidents at smaller colleges would likely keep their positions to oversee the satellite campuses, while answering to a "super-president" at the larger campus. From my vantage point, the smaller college would no longer have a president. He or she would be gone, along with several layers of administrators; the essential administrative duties would be handled, for the most part, by the staff at the central location.
Dr. Dempsey also said that smaller colleges would not receive the same level of attention and support they currently see as independent institutions. Why not? It would be his job to see that they did.
Dempsey suggests that even though he feels the smaller colleges' presidents will remain in charge of the new satellite campuses, the schools would not receive the same level of attention and support they currently receive as independent institutions? Does this compute? SCC has done a marvelous job of maintaining and increasing the level of attention and support its satellite campus receives from the Raeford community. Why wouldn't the same be true in Montgomery and Richmond counties?
Mary Kirk, president of Montgomery Community College as well as the N.C. Association of Community Colleges, has said the merger would "devastate our rural communities" by depriving access to both education and training.
I'm sorry, but this also doesn't compute. Instead, unnecessary administrative spending would be eliminated, and resources would be concentrated on teaching and training. This should have the locals dancing in the streets.
Because of the largess of the Upchurch family, political support from the Raeford and Hoke County elected officials and the cooperation and financial support of local industry, the Raeford satellite campus will always be listed as one of Dr. Dempsey's major accomplishments.
Because of the Raeford success, it is difficult for me to understand why he doesn't think satellite campuses will work in other jurisdictions. How can he not support the cloning of his "own baby" in other locales?
Dr. Dempsey, under your leadership and experience, the new satellite campuses will grow, prosper and add to your legacy. Climb aboard - the train is leaving the station. Please remember the "charge" from President Obama: We have to all share in the sacrifice.
Ralph Redmond, of Pinehurst, is a former board member at Sandhills Community College. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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