Budget concerns at Spokane Community College nearly caused a one-year shelving of a vision care technician program next fall.
Now the school’s seeing 20-20, according to program supporters.
Vision care professionals pushed SCC leaders to wait and see if the budget forecast improved. Last week, SCC President Steve Hanson agreed to hold off at least a year.
Hanson said he had originally decided to stop the program for a year, partly because only 11 students had signed up for next year. The program can handle 20 students.
Graduates end up in local eyeglass shops and eye-doctor offices, where they fit lenses, work with frames and assist doctors.
Hanson had sent an e-mail in March explaining his decision to end the program to an advisory board of vision care professionals. Several days later, he met with the board.
“We made a decision to put the program on hiatus before we met with them,” Hanson said. “They were upset by that.”
The fact remained that it was a high-cost, low-enrollment program, Hanson said.
Dr. Matt Jones, chairman of the advisory board, said there was not much warning about the proposed temporary closing.
“As a board, you want to be told that a problem is developing before (a program) is axed,” Jones said. “I didn’t feel that we were given any notice.”
In years past, the board had stepped in and helped bump up enrollment with a private advertising campaign, Jones said.
The program was run for almost 30 years by one person, Cheryl Bruce, who left last summer. A temporary replacement was brought in for the current school year.
That put administrators in a bind, said Joe Dunlap, vice president of learning at SCC. Dunlap was concerned about hiring a faculty member for a program that was on shaky ground. Essentially, the board has been given one year to bring new life to the program, Jones said.
“We have a lot of positive things we can do to this program,” Jones said.
Hanson agreed to hire a professor for the program on a one-year basis.
“The funding is assured for at least this next year,” Dunlap said.
Jones said he was pleased by the decision. He had pointed out that no other local program trains workers who can step into an eye doctor’s office with most every skill they need to begin. Jones said a survey done by the board last year showed that most graduates were hired within 10 days.
“The last thing I want to do is train someone on the job,” Jones said.
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