Blackhawk Technical College air mechanic program suspended

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Friday, November 18, 2011
— The Blackhawk Technical College Board on Wednesday suspended two programs that have graduated an average of 10.6 students a year at a cost of $470,000.

One of the programs—the Airframe & Powerplant Mechanic Program—will continue operating for at least a year using money from reserves until enrolled students can graduate, but not additional students will be enrolled.

BTC President Tom Eckert said he has a “glimmer of optimism” that he might find private money to retain the airframe program. It costs is $370,000.

About two dozen people spoke Wednesday in support of keeping the aviation program, and Eckert said Thursday nobody doubts its quality.

“We are not basing this decision on the fact the program isn’t quality,” Eckert said. “This is a business decision.

“It really was an agonizing decision for our leadership here,” Eckert said. “We had to take the resources that we had and place those resources where we thought we were doing the most good for the most people.”

In his recommendation, Eckert considered that most aviation graduates get jobs outside the district. Typically, the college’s programs prepare students for jobs in the district, he said.

The board voted 7-2 to suspend enrollment in the aviation program for at least a year and directed the administration to seek private funding or grants.

About 25 students are enrolled in the two-year airframe program.

The number of graduates has varied. The 11 graduates in 2010 were the program’s biggest class. Seven graduated in 2006, 10 in 2007, four in 2008 and eight in 2009.

The board will use money from its reserves to pay the salary and fringe benefits of the three instructors. The college’s reserves can be used to pay for one-time costs, Eckert said.

The board must cut $1 million from its 2012-13 operating budget because of state cuts and a state-imposed tax levy freeze. Shifting the expense to reserves will help close that gap, Eckert said.

No one spoke in favor of keeping the Leadership Development Program, which in 2010 graduated three students. The teacher was reassigned to another position, so the college will see savings of $100,000 for the one eliminated position.

Last updated: 6:54 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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