P O W E L L, W y o. - Northwest College is starting a new academic year with greater awareness of area residents' needs and perceptions.
Through a community survey conducted by mail last January, NWC heard from Powell, Garland, Clark, Ralston, Wapiti and Meeteetse residents on a variety of topics, according to Mark Kitchen, NWC vice president for college relations. Codyites were excluded in the Park County survey because they were surveyed last year when NWC focused on communities in which instructional centers are operated.
"People's actions are often based upon their perceptions," Kitchen said, "so learning how area residents perceive Northwest College is vital to us. The better we understand our communities, the better we can serve them."
The majority of respondents said they'd consider taking a class for personal enrichment, to stay current/advance in their career or to get a degree. Obtaining teacher certification and substitute teaching credentials, both currently offered at NWC, topped the list. Specific course content areas most popular were computers, art/graphic arts/graphic design, business and education.
What keeps area residents from taking NWC courses? Course delivery schedules and insufficient free time were most frequently mentioned.
Computer applications, employee supervision/evaluation and customer service rose to the top for respondents who desire employment skills and training.
The vast majority of respondents hear about NWC news, activities and events by reading local and regional newspapers. In response to another mass media-related question, national public radio was favored along with local radio stations.
The college's printed class schedules, mailed twice a year to Big Horn Basin residents, appear to be well read and well received, Kitchen said.
"There's a current national debate at colleges and universities about whether such expensive mailings can be discontinued in favor of online sources," Kitchen said, "but these survey results, which are also supported by anecdotal information, confirm our thinking that we must continue doing both - keep one foot in the print world while devoting the other to online options."
Just over 88 percent of survey respondents have computers in their homes, and of those, 80 percent have Internet access. More than half of the respondents said they'd subscribe to an e-mail newsletter covering college events and activities, an electronic vehicle NWC is now exploring.
Of the 6,384 mailed surveys, responses were received from 651 individuals, representing an average of 10.2 percent from the various communities. The highest percentage of respondents were middle aged and older.
"We're continually seeking ways to achieve higher response rates," Kitchen said.
The survey was part of NWC's five-year plan to survey residents in the college's service area - Park (the college's taxing district), Big Horn and Washakie counties - through 2009. An executive summary of results is available in NWC's College Relations Office.
Communities in southern Big Horn County are on deck for NWC's next community survey in spring 2008.