I wrote to this paper in May 2019 explaining why I believe Arizona Western College is a poor investment for La Paz County. I stated that AWC extracts too much money from La Paz County for the services provided and that, instead of supporting our community, they encourage our best and brightest to leave the county. Since writing that letter, I have requested additional information from AWC, researched the existing laws that govern community colleges in Arizona, and spoken with various authorities about how the situation should be handled.
AWC extracts over $5 million per year from La Paz County property owners. According to the La Paz County Treasurer, the AWC tax bill for 2018 was $5,226,312.29. Shahrooz Roohparvar, AWC Vice President for Finance and Administrative Services, reports that in fiscal year 2018, AWC spent a total of $1,063,217.25 in the Parker and Quartzsite campuses. This means that, in 2018, AWC collected $4,163,095.04 from La Paz County and took it to Yuma.
This year, AWC will collect $5,511.773 from La Paz County property owners and provide virtually no services in return. Taking over $4 million per year out of a comparatively poor county year after year is a travesty and should not be tolerated.
My second complaint is that, instead of providing technical training in our community, AWC encourages our youth to leave the area. AWC has doubled down on this position. The La Paz Promise is a program to refund tuition and fees, but not books or living expenses, to students who moved to Yuma and complete a transfer degree. A transfer degree is only beneficial if one then moves on to a four-year university. This program excludes technical degrees and encourages talented and motivated youth to leave the community.
AWC has the same program for Yuma County students. This places the Yuma County students at an even greater advantage because most transfer degree students in Yuma live with their parents. This an option not available to students from La Paz County. AWC’s “promise” is to discourage technical training, disproportionately benefit Yuma County residents, and encourage young people to move out of La Paz County.
Under existing state law, neither the La Paz County Board of Supervisors nor the voters have any direct authority to stop AWC from continuing to bleed La Paz County dry. Only the Arizona State Legislature has the authority to fix this. I see two possible ways to resolve this mess. Option 1 is to separate La Paz County from the AWC College District. The new local governing board would have the authority to lower the taxes. As a separate district, we could contract out for technical training in Parker and Quartzsite. Perhaps, Mohave Community College or Rio Salado would be interested.
Option 2 is for the state to put in a requirement that at least 80 percent of the taxes collected in La Paz County be spent in La Paz County. Personally, I think it is time to finish the split from Yuma County that was started in 1983.
The legislators who represent our area are the people who can make this happen. They included Sen. Sonny Borrelli at 602-926-5051, State Rep. Regina Cobb at 602-926-3126, and State Rep. Leo Biasiucci at 602-928-3018. Take a stand. Let them know what you want done. Keep over $5 million of La Paz County resources in La Paz County.
Dr. Kenneth B. MacFarland