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Sheridan College to assist in Gillette College transition process

The blue letters of Gillette College, Northern Wyoming Community College District on a lawn
Catherine Wheeler
/
Wyoming Public Radio

On Aug. 17, Campbell County overwhelmingly voted to make Gillette College independent of the Northern Wyoming Community College District (NWCCD), its parent institution that it had been part of since its inception in 1969. Just over two months later, plans are underway by Sheridan College to help aid in this objective by offering guidance and assistance along the way.

Dr. Walter Tribley, the President of Sheridan College, said that he and his administration are committed to helping in the transition process and will abide by a set of shared values. Those include working "collaboratively, transparently, respectfully, and professionally to ensure success for both Gillette College and Sheridan College in terms of accreditation and fiscal soundness with the best interests of current and future students, faculty, staff, and academic programs in mind," according to a press release about a special meeting held last week in Buffalo between the two boards and college presidents.

"We are here to help. We will be providing courses there and providing services," Tribley said. "And those courses and services over time will shift over to being under the complete control and autonomously provided by the new district."

The split has led to plans by Sheridan College to increase its enrollment numbers in an effort to lessen the impacts of the split. Some of these plans include offering more night and online course offerings, marketing themselves to non-traditional students, and increasing the number of students from Sheridan and the local area.

Tribley estimated that anywhere from 40-45 percent of Sheridan College's students will be lost from the split. Though this means that there will be less tuition money coming from these lost students, he said there will also be fewer costs without Gillette College as part of the NWCCD. This allows more funding to be allocated towards the college's objectives, such as marketing focused on local populations and other education and outreach programs.

The NWCCD has already made deep cuts, Tribley said, which he hopes will help avoid similar situations in the future.

"Whatever the net cost to the district is—which is estimated to $3 million and that is a very rough estimate," Tribley said. "Over time, and with natural attrition and retirement of employees, etc., we have the opportunity to become more efficient, less cost on the infrastructure side, and then drive revenue very strongly. The thing that I won't do is commit to cuts around the horizon because that's not necessarily true."

The COVID-19 pandemic has also hurt enrollment figures with a 10-15 percent decline in enrollment attributable to the virus. However, there has been an increase in the number of students taking online classes during the pandemic.

"Just going back to the spring of 2020, regardless of any enrollment, we received a one and a half million dollar cut at that time and we're looking at a $950,000 a year cut now."

Despite the talk of funding cuts, Tribley wanted the public to know that Sheridan College is a solvent institution and has not yet taken a cut in funding due to the split itself.

"We're a brilliant, sparkling college here at Sheridan College and we have wonderful programs, talented faculty and staff, and we're a vibrant college. But we have to work hard to maintain our fiscal solvency," Tribley said.

Hugh Cook is Wyoming Public Radio's Northeast Reporter, based in Gillette. A fourth-generation Northeast Wyoming native, Hugh joined Wyoming Public Media in October 2021 after studying and working abroad and in Washington, D.C. for the late Senator Mike Enzi.
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