We're not who you think we are ... but we want to be.
That was the message that came across recently at an informational meeting that I attended at the invitation of my good friend Terri Johanson. I was intrigued to learn that we do not have a college in our community as I had assumed, and certainly not a community college. That point was further clarified by the Sunday article in the Ravalli Republic written by Robert Walsh. If you haven’t read it yet, research it online for great clarity on the subject and the history of how things came to be.
Long story short, we are being short-changed in our community. Though we pay our share of state taxes that go into funding the Montana University System, we do not receive any back because we are not an official community college.
Several years back we passed an initiative to establish just that, but the legislature wasn’t convinced that we fully realized what we were voting on and never enacted such. Instead we became an outreach branch under the U of M and receive a much lower funding level from the provost’s office of the U of M, which has been diminishing annually. It doesn’t presently appear to be sustainable, and certainly doesn’t allow for growth.
I became even more interested as I learned that the present configuration doesn’t allow for local control over curriculum, or recruiting from local high schools, or applying for available federal grants. Establishing an official community college here in the Bitterroot, governed by a local board of trustees would open the door for local control, better funding, and the opportunity for growth that would allow our college over the years to thrive and become a source of pride for the Bitterroot across the state.
We only have to look at the community college in the valley north of us to see what could be possible. They are respected across the state for what they have accomplished over the last thirty years. We need that. We can have that. It will just take a collective effort to tell the legislature once again that we want that. This time the ballot will be clear that we want community college status, and that we are willing to support it.
Yes, there will be a second item on the ballot to approve a mill levy for the college. $12/year/$100K. Most homes are nearer $300K in the Bitterroot, so that’s three dollars a month. I can’t even buy a gooey coffee for three dollars. But it is like a double your money back offer because by establishing community college status, we will finally be receiving our state tax dollars back that are going to fund higher education in Montana.
I read a very informative research report on how every dollar invested in a community college returns $6.80 back to the community. If you’re from Missouri and need to be shown the extensive backup for that claim, click on the link at the bottom of this piece.
So, in conclusion, if we want the ability to meet the growing trade and technical education needs of our community, we need to establish a community college with local control. When you receive your ballot in the mail soon, please join with me in supporting the Bitterroot Valley Community College.
— RAN Pigman, Hamilton
Catch the latest in Opinion
Get opinion pieces, letters and editorials sent directly to your inbox weekly!