MCC president wants students to finish their 2-year degrees

KINGMAN – Michael Kearns wants to raise the number of Mohave County residents with an associates degree by just 1 percent a year, which would require 320 graduates from Mohave Community College.

That’s about twice as many graduates as the college currently produces, he said Monday at the Conservative Republican Club of Kingman monthly meeting at Dambar Steakhouse.

Kearns, president of Mohave Community College, said his primary goal is to get students to finish the two-year associates program, and that means passing their required math class. Math is the biggest obstacle for many community college students, he said.

“Math is a killer and it’s not even college-level math. It’s remedial math,” Kearns said.

A math class might start with 25 students, lose a few after they fail the first exam, a few more after the second exam, and of the 16 or 17 left for the final exam, a few of them will fail, too, Kearns said.

Then they’ve got to take the class over, and that’s where you lose them, the college president said. That’s why MCC is going to “transitional math,” whereby they can retake the final exam and improve their grade. “We have advisors, we have tutorials. Our system is designed top pick them up and take them to the end,” Kearns said. “We have to change the pieces, and one piece is math success.”

He also said there’s a “strange thing” about people in Kingman: They’re resistant to leaving town. For whatever reason, be it family history or a special connection to the community, they’re reluctant to relocate to four-year university towns. Some won’t even drive to Bullhead City for MCC’s dental hygienist program that will earn them $50,000 to $60,000 a year, Kearns added.

About 25 percent of Arizona’s residents have a bachelor’s degree, but Mohave County is less than 12 percent, which is an “indictment” of why the local economy can’t move forward, Kearns said.

“We don’t have a skilled workforce,” he said.

Mohave Community College is advancing its curriculum with competency-based education, which shortens the time frame and cuts the cost for certain programs such as welding, culinary and auto collision at Bullhead City. It’s based on how well students learn their skills.

“They get the same degree, but sooner and cheaper,” Kearns said. “We need to get our students finished faster. Students lose momentum. They get in the auto collision program and learn how to fix a dent, they learn how to paint a car and the leave and every finish. They don’t learn about estimates.”

The community college isn’t like a four-year university where parents are writing a check for kids who are living in the dormitory and partying, taking their time to get through school, Kearns said.

“We don’t have sports teams. These kids are coming to us to get a job and we know important jobs are for Mohave County,” he said.