The East Valley Institute of Technology is at a crossroads: As its governing board mulls whether to open branch campuses in outlying areas, the Legislature is investigating an audit that questions its funding.
The Senate Committee on Higher Education will meet today to discuss the audit released in December by the Arizona Office of the Auditor General.
The audit, which looked at the two largest joint technical education districts in Arizona, raised the question of whether EVIT is getting $2.3 million too much.
"The audit indicated that they were overcounting the number of student
credit hours that were being awarded to them (for state funding)," said committee chairwoman Sen. Linda Gray, R-Glendale.
Some EVIT board members see the audit as an attack on their funding — and argue their job is to ensure all students have an opportunity for career training, whether it’s at EVIT’s main campus in west Mesa or through satellite courses at area high schools.
"Not everybody wants to go to college," board member Norman Colbert said.
Gray called EVIT an "excellent facility" with "great programs," but questioned whether some of the school districts served by EVIT are getting their money’s worth. For instance, property owners in J.O. Combs Elementary School District pay taxes for EVIT, but send no students there.
The sheer size of the 600-square-mile EVIT district —which buses students from south Queen Creek to north Scottsdale — has resulted in a larger percentage of Mesa students attending as compared with other areas that pay the same property tax rate.
Only about 170 students attend from areas such as Chandler and Scottsdale, where property owners respectively pay $1.4 million and $3.7 million in taxes.
The audit criticizes the fact that EVIT’s satellite classes at districts’ high schools get more state funding than similar career and technical education classes offered by the high schools themselves.
"One of our conclusions is satellite funding is inequitable and less efficient, and only available to those districts that have already joined the (joint technological education district)," said Sharron Walker, who directed the audit for the state. She added that satellite courses moved EVIT away from its original intent of pooling resources in one campus to save money and provide better technology. "What was the original intent appeared to be to provide improved vocational education and serve students more cost efficiently. And that’s not what’s actually happening."
Senate panel meeting on higher education
When: 8:30 a.m. today
Where: State Capitol, Senate Hearing Room One
View the audit: www.auditorgen.state.az.us