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PCC Foundation matches big goal with more than $1 million raised

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The PCC Foundation has raised more than $1 million for scholarships, matching a challenge set forth by the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation. The organization challenged all 17 of Oregon’s community colleges to raise more money for student scholarships. By meeting the goal, the PCC Foundation will get an extra $320,000 in matching contributions from the Miller Foundation. The PCC Foundation will get that money because it has raised $1,032,064 – more than $300,000 needed to match the challenge.

“This is an amazing accomplishment,” said PCC President Preston Pulliams. “This will go a very long way toward our philosophy of access for everyone who wants a college education. In such tough economic times, the generosity displayed here is stunning.”

Approximately $190,000 in donations have come from the college’s own staff and faculty. The Foundation typically hands out more than 300 scholarships, but now that number could double. This was made possible thanks to the Miller Foundation, which tried a creative approach in helping the state’s community colleges.

“This has never happened statewide, where one donor is helping the entire community college system,” said Rick Zurow, executive director of the PCC Foundation. “It will help us expand our donor database, bring in new gifts and continue fund-raising into future years.”

Money is needed for students

Almost half of PCC students need financial help to attend college. Many students are working full-time, supporting families and trying to make ends meet.

According to the Financial Aid department, the college is experiencing the largest increase in financial aid requests ever. PCC has seen the number of financial aid applications rocket up by 23.3 percent compared to the same time last year. Most of the work is processing the sheer volume of applications and talking with students at the window.PCC President Preston Pulliams meets a scholarship recipient.

“This is the largest increase this late in the year for us,” said Corbett Gottfried, PCC’s director of financial aid. “We have had large increases like this at the beginning of the year, but not at this late stage. We have staff putting in extra hours and working harder. It’s been a real struggle.”

The PCC Foundation also has seen an uptick in calls asking about scholarships by not only students but also by staff and faculty on behalf of their students. The 2009-10 year application period starts March 16 for the Foundation and it expects to receive twice as many applications for the upcoming school year than last year.

With budget cuts looming due to the economy and the lack of any more money for the state’s Opportunity Grants, pressure has increased on community colleges to make higher education accessible and affordable to everyone in the community.

Locally, that’s where the PCC Foundation comes in.

Miller Foundation helps Oregon’s community college raise money

The PCC Foundation distributed more than $412,000 for scholarships during the 2007-08 fiscal year; this funded 327 scholarships. Another 400-plus qualified scholarship applicants were turned away due to lack of funds. In the current economic climate, growing the Foundation’s asset base has taken priority. The PCC Foundation is in the top 100 of community college foundations nationally, but the size of the endowment compared to the college’s enrollment is low. In response, the PCC Foundation has grown from a staff of 2.5 to 8 positions.

“The silver lining for us is that people have responded to the challenge,” Zurow added. “PCC provides a clear path for students to get the skills they need to enter the workforce. The Foundation tries to remove the financial barriers and do what we can to provide the faculty with the best equipment to enhance their teaching.”

Student takes advantage of scholarships after layoff

William Cervarich, 27-year-old resident of St. Johns in Portland, is a scholarship recipient after he got laid off from a title company in the summer of 2008, a victim of the housing collapse. Thanks to PCC, he’s looking to retrain into the renewable energy technology field through the Electronic Engineering program based at Sylvania Campus to work as a wind or solar technician.

“For awhile, I looked for a job, but I also investigated coming back to school at the same time,” he said. “For me, getting back to work and simultaneously having the option to continue my education was crucial.”

Cervarich symbolizes why the Miller Foundation match is so important. He received a $200 textbook scholarship thanks to a donation by Platt Electric and a $500 tuition scholarship from Bonneville Power. More scholarships would be available to students like Cervarich if the PCC Foundation reached the Miller match goal.

“I appreciate the assistance from the PCC Foundation,” said Cervarich, who had to take out student loans as well. “It’s heartening to know that local businesses and individuals support the betterment of the community through education. When contributing to education, you’re giving to someone who wants to improve his life, someone who already knows and has committed to the hard work of school.

“You also invest in the local economy,” he added. “The more qualified workers we have in Portland, the more employers will look for talent here.”

Information about the PCC Foundation

The PCC Foundation is the private fund-raising arm for the college. Members of the community who believe in the mission and the value of PCC serve on the PCC Foundation Board to guide its activities and investments. The foundation is a tax-exempt, charitable organization, meaning that donations are tax-deductible. For more information about the PCC Foundation visit http://www.pcc.edu/foundation/, or call (503) 977-4382.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »

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