Eastern Arizona College engages in vital discussion with Arizona Governor and Town of Thatcher leadership

From left to right: Keith Alexander, EAC’s chief government relations officer; Lois Ann Moody, Graham County Community College District Governing Board member; Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs; Todd Haynie, EAC president; and Jeff Larson, Graham County Community College District Governing Board chair, gather to address critical issues impacting the college and the community it serves. [EAC- photo]


On April 25, 2024, Eastern Arizona College (EAC) and the Town of Thatcher engaged in a meeting with Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs to address several critical issues affecting this region.

The gathering, hosted by EAC, presented pressing matters ranging from the College’s expenditure limit set by a 1980 constitutional amendment to the urgent need for increased student housing due to the scarcity in Graham County.

EAC emphasized the severe implications if the November 2024 ballot measure to increase the expenditure limit does not pass. The College advised that without adjusting the expenditure baseline, substantial reductions in educational programs would be inevitable, critically hindering its ability to draw both students and staff vital for ongoing operations. This outcome would likely close EAC’s campus.

With student housing at full capacity and the community grappling with a housing crisis, EAC emphasized the necessity for additional funding. The College proposed the construction of new on-campus housing dedicated to students, specifically targeting support for disadvantaged and rural students.

“Eastern Arizona College is facing a housing crunch, with our residence halls filled to capacity,” said EAC President Todd Haynie. “The thriving copper mine nearby has led to a scarcity in local housing. We need to expand our on-campus housing to accommodate 200 more students and earnestly seek support for this project.”

In efforts to respond to workforce demands, EAC underlined the importance of constructing a skills center to flexibly initiate programs for high-demand jobs, especially for those seeking to work in rural communities. Despite the legislative appropriations, EAC’s limited resources have restricted its ability to compete for grants, prompting a request for direct funding and an adjustment in the grant allocation process favoring smaller entities.

“Due to our size, Eastern Arizona College is at a competitive disadvantage in securing workforce development funds set up as grants through the ACA,” stated Haynie. “With a single grant writer tasked with extensive responsibilities, we’re advocating for a funding model that better accommodates small institutions, ensuring essential resources don’t go unutilized simply because we lack the capacity to apply.”

EAC’s initiative to align Arizona’s full-time student equivalent (FTSE) definition with the national standard was another crucial point of discussion, urging the state to recognize 12 credit hours as full-time, which would positively influence funding formulas and simplify administrative processes.

To further advance programmatic offerings, EAC is partnering with Mt. Graham Regional Medical Center to create a new medical clinic for services. The College appealed for support to facilitate agreements with state agencies to provide state services and for funding to expand educational and provider programs within the new facility.

The Town of Thatcher, represented by Mayor Randy Bryce and Vice Mayor Jenny Howard, shared its challenges, and aligned with EAC on various issues. A significant concern is the stagnant Highway User Revenue Fund, with a plea for a revision to reflect the growing population of electric vehicles and more efficient cars. The dangerous condition of Highway 70 demands prioritization for development funding to enhance safety.

“Highway 70 is our primary route to Maricopa County and it poses significant dangers,” expressed Mayor Randy Bryce. “Frequent fatalities underscore the urgency for prioritizing its funding and development.”

Housing scarcity echoed as a central theme, with the Town of Thatcher seeking aid for low-income and rural housing to alleviate the strain on the local market. Education financing, particularly for K-12, was also a critical issue, calling for sustained and accessible funding rather than one-time grants.

Community priorities include addressing the Town of Thatcher’s expenditure limitations, water rights, and facility deficits, with an emphasis on equitable distribution of state resources, given the substantial contribution Graham County provides through mining and industrial activities.

“Graham County has long been a powerhouse for Arizona’s economy through our mining and industrial activities, yet the benefits of our contributions don’t proportionately flow back into our community,” Thatcher Mayor Randy Bryce commented. “We generate significant revenue for the state but receive less than one percent back in taxes for resources extracted from our own backyard. It’s crucial that state leaders acknowledge this disparity and consider our substantial economic input when reviewing future facility requests from our area.”

The issues of border security, healthcare accessibility, insurance practices, and remote operation of the Department of Economic Security offices were also brought to the fore, underscoring the multifaceted challenges faced by the community.

“The shift to remote services has left our seniors and underserved citizens vulnerable,” said Town of Thatcher Vice Mayor Jenny Howard. “Without access to technology, many are at risk of losing utility services. We need a straightforward, reliable system to aid these residents and restore the personal connection they depend on.”

Governor Hobbs’s engagement with the local leaders of Eastern Arizona College and the Town of Thatcher signifies a pivotal step toward addressing and resolving the region’s pressing issues, with a commitment to ongoing dialogue and collaboration.