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PCC’s Southeast Center doing more with limited space
Photos and Story by James Hill
Walk through Mt. Tabor Hall at Portland Community College’s Southeast Center and you might encounter long lines or crowded study areas.
The center, which opened in 2004, has experienced the most rapid enrollment growth of any PCC location. In data released by PCC’s Office of Institutional Effectiveness for the last three years, the center has grown to 6,175 credit students this year from 4,705 in 2008 – an increase of 31 percent, but the number of class sections has risen by one third.
That population has not only gotten larger, but far more diverse. Minorities make up 39 percent of the student body (11.4 percent Asian, 11.3 percent African American and 8.5 percent Hispanic) up from 35.8 percent three years earlier.
Advising office gets inventive to serve more students
“And in that same time frame we went from 7,200 advising visits to 13,038,” said Luis Rodriguez-Garcia, the academic advising coordinator for the Southeast Center. “That is an increase of 81 percent. Because of this surge there was a two-hour wait to see an advisor. We are consistently looking at how we can systematically be more efficient and how we deliver our services. As a result, we switched to appointment-only so they don’t have to wait. They’re liking the new system.”
Rodriquez and his office manage this increase with one coordinator, two full-time advisors and one assistant for the center’s START Lab – a resource center enabling new students to drop in and complete their orientation, first advising session and registration in a group-like setting. When it gets really busy, he calls in some part-time advisers to help with the demand from students. Since Southeast Center isn’t a comprehensive campus, it means when classes are fill up advisors have to call on other campuses to find options.
“When it comes to scheduling, we try to get students to take most of their classes at the Southeast Center, but most of the required classes fill up quickly,” Rodriguez said. “Space is limited, so we encourage them to take that next step and ride the free PCC Shuttle to other campuses.”
Bond program will double size of classroom space
In response to the crowding issue, the PCC Bond Program will soon start work on expanding the campus to make it a full-service comprehensive campus – the fourth one in the PCC district. Planned class and program additions as result of construction will allow
Southeast Portland students to earn academic credentials without having to leave the center for another PCC campus. Currently, the center has 26 classrooms and the bond will double the space devoted to classrooms, labs, study space, gathering areas and library. PCC plans to begin construction of the $39 million expansion project during the spring of 2012.
“Since we don’t have a library we have no real area for students to have a quiet place,” Rodriguez added. “We have a mix of activities in our Great Hall, from students studying to others just hanging out. It’s hard to balance those activities for some students.”
A key component of the expansion will be adding more science labs for biology, chemistry and physics classes as well as career training facilities, classrooms, and a library, computer resource and tutoring center. This will go hand in hand with expansion of all student services and resource development departments, including a new childcare facility, in hopes to eventually accommodate more than 20,000 students annually, up from nearly 11,000 now.
“Our Southeast Portland community will be better served as a result of the expansion of the center into a comprehensive community college campus,” said Craig Kolins, Extended Learning Campus president.
Biology is poster child for the growing pains
Any expansion will help classes like biology and chemistry, which have two labs to use at Southeast Center. Right now, the second lab is a temporary classroom that has been converted to serve the demand.
“For biology we’ve nearly tripled the course offerings this fall compared to fall term last year and they are all full,” said Susanne Christopher, health education instructor and the chair of Science, Health and Physical Education at the campus. “The speed at which the science classes fill is a sign of the demand, and they fill very quickly. We’re offering an environmental science class for the first time and it’s full, and our general science courses filled the second day of registration and we have no space to offer additional courses.
“The limitation for us is classroom and lab space, and the demand is strong,” she added. “Students are telling us they want more, but we don’t have the space. Plus, some science labs have unique setups that we can’t easily duplicate well here with our present classrooms. The science departments at the Cascade and Sylvania campuses have been very supportive. This has been a real district effort to bring the sciences to the Southeast Center.”
College grew for 16th consecutive term in summer
Overall this summer term, the college saw enrollment growth for the 16th straight term. PCC grew by one percent in headcount to 25,488 this term and by one percent for full-time equivalent (FTE) students to 4,047. By campus: Rock Creek (17705 N.W. Springville Road) is up 11.4 percent in headcount and grew by 9.9 percent in FTE; Sylvania (12000 S.W. 49th Ave.) is down 1.2 percent in total headcount and up 0.3 percent in FTE; and Cascade (705 N. Killingsworth St.) is up 1.1 percent in headcount and down 3.9 percent in FTE.
For more enrollment figures, visit the week four report – the official week for reporting enrollment numbers.