BTC considers cutting aviation program
If you go
What: Regular meeting of the Blackhawk Technical College Board
When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 16.
Where: BTC Administrative Center, 6004 S. County G, Janesville.
On the agenda: The board could vote to suspend the college's aviation program. Current students would be allowed to finish, but no new students could enroll in the program.
ROCK TOWNSHIP Members of the Blackhawk Technical College Board in two weeks will consider eliminating the school's aviation program to save $370,000, President Thomas Eckert said.
Meanwhile, program supporters are scrambling to convince the board that the aviation program is a necessary one, said Jim Freeman, owner of Helicopter Specialties, Janesville, and an alumnus of the school.
Eckert will propose the cut at the board's regular meeting Wednesday, Nov. 16. The program's three instructors have been notified the program is being considered for suspension, Eckert said.
The decision was financially driven, Eckert said.
"Nobody wants this, but we had a 30 percent reduction in state aid, and our levies have been capped," Eckert said. "We would prefer not to do this, but we just don't have a choice."
When considering programs to cut for the 2012-13 school year, the school must keep in mind the labor needs in the college's district, Eckert said. While some graduates of the college's aviation mechanics program get jobs in the district, many move elsewhere to work, he said.
"We have to produce students to meet the workforce needs in our counties," Eckert said. "We don't have a lot of (aviation) employers. We have some, but not a lot compared to welding or CNC machining, for example."
Freeman's business is next to the BTC Aviation Center at the Southern Wisconsin Regional Airport on Highway 51 south of Janesville. He hires about one BTC student per year he said.
It was a shock to find out the college is considering cutting the aviation program, Freeman said.
"With everything that's going on and with Rock County the way it is, they surely don't need to close a school that's full," Freeman said.
The program adds variety to the local selection of educational programs, he said.
"It gives local high school students another choice for a career path," Freeman said. "It's diversification."
The program would continue until current students graduate, Eckert said. If the program is cut, no more students would be allowed to enroll in the fall, he said.
This year, Blackhawk Tech has a $57.71 million operating budget. Last year the operating budget was $53.72 million.