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Governor's budget translates to approximately $14 million next biennium for PCC
Photos and Story by James Hill
PORTLAND, Ore. – On Monday, Gov. Ted Kulongoski revealed his recommended budget for the 2007-09 biennium. The Governor’s recommended budget is usually the starting point for negotiations during the legislative session.
The Governor’s recommendation is $483 million for the Community College Support Fund. His recommended budget is lower than the level being requested by the Oregon Community College Association’s Board of Directors. OCCA supports funding at $529 million for the Community College Support Fund. The OCCA is requesting capital funding for projects at fourteen community colleges, while the Governor’s recommended budget supports funding for just 12 college projects.
For PCC, the Governor’s budget proposal means that the college would get an estimated $14 million increase for the next biennium compared to funding in the 2005-07 biennium. While this is an improvement over the current funding level, it still falls short of the amount needed to fill the hole created by six years of severe funding cuts. Plus, mandated expenditures and costs have increased. For example, PERS-related obligations have increased by $11.6 million – an increase of 265 percent since 2001.
During the past six years, Oregon’s investment in higher education has dropped significantly. In fact, the state appropriation to community colleges in 2005-07 was lower than the appropriation level in 2001. This reduction in state funding has led directly to a loss of student enrollment, due to the college’s inability to offer programs and services to growing numbers of students. Over the past three biennia, PCC has significantly reduced instructional and student support services, deferred maintenance and increased tuition and fees. These cuts have resulted in an enrollment drop of 16 percent, meaning that at least 17,000 students are being priced out of higher education.
“We all talk about the ‘seamless education system’ from pre-kindergarten through graduate school and the importance of adequate funding at all levels, but recent funding levels have done little more than keep the doors of higher education open,” said PCC District President Preston Pulliams. “Cuts over the past six years have resulted in lost opportunity, serious reductions in higher education programs and untenably large increases in tuition and fees. Thousands of students have been shut out of higher education in this state.”
Pulliams added, “We applaud the Governor for proposing such a strong budget for education at all levels, and for his continued commitment for increasing funding for student financial aid. He understands the needs for a world-class education system in this state and his budget makes a positive step in the direction we want to head. But we believe we also need to talk to our legislators about the gap that still remains and to make them aware that this budget falls short of our real needs.”
The $529 million appropriation level that PCC and the other 16 Oregon community colleges will be pushing for during the upcoming session would bring PCC an additional $5.5 million per year over the $483 million proposed in the Governor’s budget. At this level, PCC would add courses that help prepare students for academic success; provide college academic and student support; increase funding for technology; hire faculty; increase financial aid for students, particularly part-time students most impacted by the large tuition increases; Add staff to improve programs and transitions between PCC and our area high schools and college partners; expand technical training programs; and increase capacity to serve more students.
A $529 million appropriation request represents a 23 percent increase in state funding over 2005-07, in line with the Oregon University System request. PCC’s tuition and fees are $73 per credit, meaning that a typical three-credit course will cost $219, and full-time tuition and fees would run to $3,285 per year, without books and other expenses like transportation, rent and food. On average, Oregon’s community colleges have some of the highest tuition rates in the 15 western states.
PCC is a valuable resource for students from all walks of life to get started on their college education, retrain for a new job, or develop a new skill to meet the state’s workforce demands. They include students like:
Tera Roberts has eight children and had her husband leave her. Because of PCC’s affordability and accessibility, Roberts was able to enroll, take classes, find financial aid and is now an award-winning nursing student at OHSU. Click here for Tera’s story.
PCC, OCCA and the rest of the state’s community colleges hope to work with the Legislature to help build a better foundation for higher education.
“We have an opportunity this session to work together to rebuild a strong educational system at all levels,” Pulliams said. “We must begin to reverse the downward trend in support for higher education. An investment in community colleges makes good economic sense for the state. No other institutions offer such open access and opportunity for higher education, and clear pathways to living-wage jobs than our state’s community colleges.”
Portland Community College is the largest post-secondary institution in Oregon, serving approximately 88,200 full- and part-time students. For more PCC news, please visit us on the Web at www.pcc.edu/news. PCC has three comprehensive campuses, five workforce training and education centers, and 200 community locations in the Portland metropolitan area. The PCC district encompasses a 1,500-square-mile area in northwest Oregon and offers two-year degrees, one-year certificate programs, short-term training, alternative education, pre-college courses and life-long learning.