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A need to provide more programs, serve more students

Story by Dana Haynes photos by Jerry Hart.

District President Preston Pulliams

District President Preston Pulliams

Faced with a rapidly growing community and increased demand for well-trained workers, the Portland Community College Board of Directors voted unanimously to consider a capital improvement bond for all four main campuses of the college.

PCC serves an estimated 86,000 students through transfer programs to four-year colleges and universities, workforce training, Community Education and professional and technical certification.

Through its vote at its October meeting, the board directed staff to prepare a bond proposal to address growth and educational needs.

“This bond measure will give Portland Community College the ability to serve the ever-increasing number of students in our area,” said Jim Harper, chairman of the PCC Board of Directors. “It also allows us to update and improve our curriculum in order to match critical workforce needs.”

Preston Pulliams, district president, explained the need for a bond measure now. “It is PCC’s role to serve the Portland area, to educate students, to train the workforce, to provide access to anyone who wants the services we have to offer. But as the community grows, so too must PCC,” Pulliams said. “Existing facilities and programs will not be able to accommodate the influx of students without adding to the services, the buildings and the technology at our campuses.”

He added that the Portland area is expected to grow by an estimated 369,000 people by 2020. Many of these newcomers will be college-aged, in need of professional training, seeking second careers or hoping to start a business: all of which are missions performed by the college.

Recent research shows that 56 percent of households in the Portland area have included one or more PCC students. And a community survey indicated that 73 percent highly rated PCC’s operations and performance as ranging from “pretty good” to “excellent.” Respondents said PCC ranked highly for educating people of all ages and abilities; convenient locations; being safe and secure environs; and for being well-managed and efficient. They also said PCC is a good return on tax dollars.

Pulliams predicted the college would add career-training classes throughout the district which likely would include welding and first-responder training, as well as expanding health care programs to the Rock Creek Campus in Washington County. Other issues that could be addressed in a bond measure include increases in space for course offerings that prepare students to transfer to four-year schools, as well as better student services at all four main campuses, improved technology throughout the college and safer, more modern infrastructure.

“These are the programs our students tell us they need,” Pulliams said. “These are the programs that business and industry tells us they need to build the workforce of the 21st century. We already have workforce shortages in health care, engineering and construction trades. We must increase our capacity to provide these types of training opportunities if we are to fulfill our promise to support economic development and increase access to high-quality education for residents of the PCC district.”

Over the next several months, the college will hold conversations with community members, discussing ways PCC can address the needs of the Portland area to train workers, to keep Oregon attractive to new businesses and help Portland-area residents to pursue post-secondary education.

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