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Governor's Potential Veto Means $15 Million Cut to PCC
Photos and Story by James Hill
PORTLAND, Ore. – Gov. John Kitzhaber is considering a veto of Senate Bill 1022, which would result in the largest cutbacks to community colleges in the state’s history. For Portland Community College, Oregon’s largest community college with 103,000 students attending last year, the result would be a cut to the general fund of approximately $15 million. It represents a 25 percent reduction in state funds for PCC. "A cut of this size would be devastating to the community,"said Jesus "Jess"Carreon, president of Portland Community College. "It would greatly impact PCC’s ?open door’ to students. We would have no choice but to look at enrollment caps, program elimination and loss of access to education for thousands of students. We are seeing historic enrollment growth, more than 13 percent this year, but with cuts of this magnitude from the state, we will simply have to turn students away."Carreon conceded that the fund shift contained in SB 1022 is problematic, policy-wise, but given where the college is in the academic year – with fall term set to begin in a little more than one month and many classes already filled – the cut would be extremely hard to implement without serious ramifications. He said it would create a long-term impact on the college and on the quality of life of the community. The potential budget cuts to PCC would translate to a loss of educational services to 14,000 students. It is roughly equal to the size of the Cascade Campus and the Southeast Center. Or, it would translate to layoffs of 375 faculty, managers or other staff to achieve $15 million in savings. If the entire costs were passed along to students, the burden would be a $25 per credit hour tuition increase, bringing tuition to $70 per credit hour. Bryan Ruzicka, student body president at the Cascade Campus, said, "We are really scared. Many of the students are afraid they could return to school to find their program gone. And, this is on top of the $5 tuition increase and the continuing fee increases. It would make higher education more and more difficult to attain."He added, "Community colleges are supposed to be accessible for students who can’t otherwise afford higher education. If Gov. Kitzhaber’s proposed veto is carried out, it will undermine the accessibility for the average student."Portland Community College, the largest post-secondary institution in Oregon, serves students at three comprehensive campuses, four workforce centers and offers classes at 200 sites in its five-county, 1,500-square-mile district.