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Growth at PCC Soared Last Year

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Portland Community College, Oregon’s largest post-secondary school, got considerably larger last year. Enrollment jumped 8.2 percent, setting a record for growth. For the 1999-2000 academic year, 96,869 students took classes at PCC.

"We continue to serve an increasing number of students each term," said PCC President Dan Moriarty. "However, without additional resources to keep up, we cannot continue to keep the doors wide open for the demand that is clearly there. Growth was expected, but frankly not at this magnitude. We’re stretched to the limit."

This fall, Portland Community College goes to the ballot to ask voters to help ease the strain on filled classrooms, on technology that is dated and on buildings that need upgrading and repairs. The college has placed a $144 million bond measure on the ballot for the November general election. The cost per thousand will average 11 cents for district property owners, approximately $16.50 a year for a house assessed at $150,000. The ballot measure number is 26-7.

"The bond is critical," said Moriarty. "The college will have to pull money from its already taxed instructional budget without added funds." In May, PCC proposed the same measure, and it was narrowly defeated. The measure won approval by more than 57 percent, but the voter turnout was 49.6 percent, a fraction of a percent short needed for approval. In Oregon, in all but general elections, money requests require a 50 percent approval and 50 percent voter turnout for passage.

The college has experienced 15 consecutive terms of enrollment growth. The crunch is felt in a number of areas across the district. Seats in science labs are at a premium; computer courses, writing and mathematics classes required for the first two years of a four-year degree fill immediately. Professional technical training programs in nursing, dental, graphic arts are also booming, with long waiting lists. The new one-year certificate program at the Cascade Campus to prepare web designers, Multimedia, fills quickly. Also at Cascade, there is just one general science lab meeting the needs of a campus whose enrollment has doubled in the past year.

Bill Christopher, executive dean of the Rock Creek Campus, said, "Our science labs are scheduled from 8 in the morning until 10 at night and still, there is demand. At this point, we do not have the room to keep pace."

By campus, the growth breakdown for 1999-00 is:

Cascade Campus, 15,500 students, a 51 percent hike from last year. The Rock Creek Campus enrolled 11,812 students, a 13.6 percent boost in growth; the Sylvania Campus experienced a modest decrease at .7 percent. (Sylvania cannot accommodate more growth, due to space limitations.) At the college’s Open Campus, enrollments jumped 4 percent to 63,649. The Open Campus provides continuing education, non-credit and customized business and industry training programs in approximately 200 locations across the PCC district.

In June, the 17 state community colleges requested $16.4 million from the Legislative Emergency Board to help ease crowded conditions, but received only $1.94 million. Of that amount, PCC was given $438,000. "The one-time money certainly helps, but given our growth, it cannot begin to meet the need," said Moriarty. "It doesn’t speak to any of the issues covered in the bond, and only inadequately to our operational costs."

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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