By Melissa Prentice
Arizona Daily Wildcat
It takes a lot to convince 70 Sierra Vista residents to make the hour-and-a-half trip to Tucson, and even more to send them home happy an hour later.
But the Arizona Board of Regents did it yesterday when they voted unanimously to promote the University of Arizona's Sierra Vista "off-campus center" to official branch campus status. The town residents, equipped with "UA-SV" pennants, responded with a standing ovation.
"We have supported the campus all along, we were there at the dedication, we didn't want to miss out on today," said Bob Frese, one of the town residents. Other town residents in the audience included the mayor, the chairman of the board of supervisors, the president of Cochise Community College and representatives from Fort Huachuca Army Base.
"I am absolutely elated (about the support from the community); it is overwhelming," Campus Director Randy Groth said. He said it is support like this from the community that has allowed the campus to grow to its current success level.
When the campus began, all the classes were held in Cochise Community College mid
classrooms. But thanks to community donations that funded the campus's first building, Cochise College now holds classes in the UA building, he said.
"The community support will continue in the future and help fund new programs and cultural activities and even new facilities," he said.
Regent Judy Gignac, a resident of Sierra Vista, said she awaited the board's decision with "everything crossed." She said the campus will continue to succeed due to community support.
"You know the campus and the community of Sierra Vista and you have our word that what we say we will do, we will do," she said.
According to regents policy, a campus must have operated as an off-campus center for five years, must be able to offer a range of academic services similar to those at a main campus and must have enrollment potential of at least 1,500 full-time students after three years.
Benefits of becoming a branch campus include "greater opportunity to offer more majors and degree programs," a state budget independent from the UA's and the option to ask the state for funds to build and improve campus buildings, Groth said.
"A destination of more permanence will encourage additional people to register for classes and will give them a sense ... that they can go through a four-year program and graduate," said UA President Manuel T. Pacheco.
Jacqueline Wilson-Bradley, the Sierra Vista student body president, said the change will also allow the campus to expand its student services.
"For example, it will allow us to get a full-time financial aid counselor at the campus rather than having to make long distance calls to Tucson or wait for a day when someone is available on campus," she said.
Sierra Vista Mayor Richard Archer said he and the majority of the town residents are "elated" by the decision, which will help attract people to the town.
"It will be a great aid to city growth and future economic development," he said. Educational opportunities are often key concerns when making relocation decisions and offering a four-year degree program "will be a plus in selling the city."
"Now the party is kind of over and we have a lot of work ahead of us," Groth said. "We have to get started on funding issues, accreditation and working with the Faculty Senate to make sure a quality education is in place."
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