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As funding budgets shrink, PCC enrollment grows
Photos and Story by James Hill
For the sixth straight term, Portland Community College has grown in total headcount and full-time equivalent students, according to winter term enrollment figures.
Overall, the college grew by 4.2 percent in total headcount and 11.4 percent in full-time equivalent (FTE) students after the end of the fourth week – the standard week for reporting enrollment figures. The total number of students taking classes increased to 36,574 this term, a surge by more than 1,488 students. The determinate for how much PCC gets from the state’s community college funding formula is the FTE numbers. PCC’s numbers in this area grew by 730.96 to 7,131.77 FTE for winter term.
The enrollment figures reflect the number of students taking classes for that specific term. These numbers cannot be added to other terms’ totals to get an overall enrollment, as many students who are enrolled throughout the year would be counted more than once. FTE is the total number of full- and part-time students added up to calculate one full-time student.
As enrollment grows, the need to adequately fund the support for additional students also surges. Gov. Ted Kulongoski proposed $485 million for the Community College Support Fund in the 2009-11 biennium, but due to the rapid deterioration of the economy, that figure will likely be reduced by a further $50 million to $435 million. That is down from the current $500 million, a reduction of 13 percent.
“With this level of funding, we will have real budget challenges for the biennium,” said PCC President Preston Pulliams. “We estimate state funding to PCC would be reduced by $9.8 million in the first year of the biennium and $8 million in the second year.”
With the increase in core credit enrollment, passage of a recent bond measure and expansion of sustainability initiatives, the cuts to funding have put even more pressure on college leaders to keep PCC affordable and accessible to everyone in the community. Any decision to increase tuition or fees will be made by the Board of Directors.
“This recession is driving more students to community colleges,” said Denise Frisbee, who chairs the board. “In tough economic times, PCC is the ‘first responder’ for workers who are laid off, whose companies fail, or who are looking to bolster their résumé. We are a safety net for the workforce.”
President Pulliams said that the college is working with state and local leaders to communicate these messages and build awareness of the community college’s value.
“We are working actively to remind our legislators and the public of the critical role community colleges play in the state’s economic future,” Pulliams said. “The many legislators we have met with have been very receptive to our message. They are facing some difficult choices ahead, but I am optimistic that despite the anticipated cuts, the final budget will reflect a commitment to community colleges and our students.
“Enrollment is increasing and public confidence in us is high,” he added. “Despite these budget challenges, we will need to make sure that we maintain a foundation of programs and services that we can build on when the economy recovers. If we do, PCC’s future will continue to be on solid ground.”
Each of the comprehensive campuses offers complete paths to an associate’s degree at their respective locations. Here is how they fared:
Rock Creek Campus, 17705 N.W. Springville Road
This campus in Washington County, known for diesel service repair, welding, landscape technology and biology programs, experienced an increase of 14.7 percent in total FTE and 15.1 percent in total headcount.
Cascade Campus (705 N. Killingsworth St.)
The campus, located in inner Northeast Portland, is home to the trades and industry, education, first responder, fire science and business administration programs. It swelled by 15.9 percent in FTE and 13.9 percent in overall headcount.
Sylvania Campus, 12000 S.W. 49th Ave.
The southwest Portland campus – the largest in PCC’s 1,500-square-mile district and housing such programs as machine manufacturing technology, early childhood education, sign language interpreter and automotive technology – experienced a 5.8 percent increase in student enrollment and 5.7 percent growth in FTE.
Southeast Center, 2305 S.E. 82nd and Division
The campus, which allows students to complete many of the course toward a college transfer degree, saw its core enrollment increase by more than 14.5 percent winter term. The Southeast Center also offers Aviation Science courses, Adult Basic Education courses to help students prepare for the GED, and English for Speakers of Other Languages classes in addition to its core credit classes. Welding courses are also offered at the Swan Island Training Center on Portland’s eastside.