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Portland Community College to take bond measure to voters in November
Photos and Story by James Hill
Portland Community College made it official March 20, as the college’s Board of Directors voted to take a $374 million ballot measure to voters in November.
The ballot measure would enable PCC to expand programs and serve more students at all three primary campuses and the college’s Southeast Center on 82nd Avenue and Division Street. Plans also call for expanding into Yamhill County and a new site on the Max transit line in Washington County.
The proposed construction and renovations would serve an additional 24,000 students. Many of the new programs would address current workforce shortages as well as those anticipated in the metro area over the coming decades.
“Portland Community College has more students applying for programs than we can fit into our current facilities,” said Preston Pulliams, PCC district president. “Students are turned away each term in programs such as nursing and other health-care training, as well as welding, computer education and more, due to lack of space. We have high demand for even more vocational training programs than PCC can offer without additional space.”
The process to craft the bond measure began in 2005, including research into what programs students were seeking and ways to address workforce shortages between then and the year 2020. Studies also discovered that much of the technology used by PCC for workforce training is not up to industry standards.
Starting in December 2007, Pulliams took part in an estimated 30 events for students, staff, faculty and community leaders, to gauge their needs and concerns, and to get their thoughts on the proposed bond measure.
“Every week, we heard from business and industry, asking PCC to address workforce shortages,” said Jim Harper, chairman of the PCC Board of Directors. “And we do. But the college would be able to do so much more if this bond is successful. This is part of a long-term master plan to serve the metro area, now and for decades to come.”
The bond measure would:
• Increase the number of classrooms at every campus, plus increase laboratory space and improve technology for classrooms and distance learning.
• Renovate and update existing buildings, including heating, rooftop and plumbing improvements.
• Replace out-of-date technology and equipment used for workforce training.
• Focus on environmentally friendly construction of new buildings, upgrade existing buildings to be “greener” and introduce more environmentally oriented curriculum for students.
• Expand professional programs, such as nursing, as well as technical-training programs, such as welding.
• Expand students’ childcare facilities.
• Expand offerings into Newberg and Sherwood, and construct the Willow Creek facility on the Max transit line in Washington County. Willow Creek would be a partnership between PCC, Tri-Met and the Oregon Department of Employment to create a one-stop-shopping center for unemployed and underemployed Oregonians in the region.
• Focus on safety of students, staff and faculty at all facilities, including alarms and improved evacuation routes. Also, increase security of personal data on computers.
PCC serves 86,000 students, making its student body larger than the seven Oregon University System schools combined. A 2007 survey showed that two-thirds of households in the metro area have had, or currently have, at least one PCC student.
Enrollment has risen every term this school year, after taking a dip during and immediately following the 2002-03 recession.
Despite the $374 million price tag on the bond measure, the cost per $1,000 for property owners would not exceed 35.5 cents. That’s because PCC is spread out over five counties and 1,500 square miles – making it roughly the size of Rhode Island. For the average house in the PCC district, that comes to an estimated $8 per month or $100 per year.
The bonds would expire in 20 years. The college would conduct annual audits – available to the public – to ensure that bond funds are used as the voters intended.
“By spreading it out over the five counties, the monthly cost for all this bond is less than the cost of a pizza,” Pulliams said. “And by spreading it out over 20 years, we would make growth pay for itself. Existing Oregonians shouldn’t shoulder the whole burden for future growth.”