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At 48, PCC starts new year busting at the seams

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firstdayMonday, Sept. 21, is the first day of the new school year at Portland Community College and students are crowding the college campuses to attend courses, register for classes, sign up for parking permits and complete admissions requirements. Enrollment has increased by more than 20 percent in credit students year over year.

Not only are PCC officials trying to accommodate these students, but are trying to deal with the strain of serving those students. From financial aid to classroom space to transportation, PCC is scrambling to make sure its students have the tools they need to make 2009-10 a successful year.

And it’s not just PCC, its happening at community colleges al over the nation. NBC television profiled the issue recently on its national broadcast.

“The recession has caused many people to be unemployed or under-employed and they are now coming to PCC, and community colleges all over the country, to look for training so they can restructure their skills and get back into the marketplace to look for a job,” said PCC President Preston Pulliams. “It’s part of the recession and also is due to several other factors. This area’s population is growing and we’re doing a better job of marketing to let people know what kind of services we have to offer.”

As an example, the college’s credit enrollment growth is 10 percent year-over-year for PCC’s Westside counties – Yamhill, Columbia and Washington. Between the 2007-08 and the 2008-09 school years, PCC had a surge of 11.3 percent in students from Washington County, 9.9 percent from Columbia County and 9.9 percent from Yamhill County. Full-time equivalent enrollment in Aviation Science based at the Hillsboro Airport, for instance, has more than doubled from this same time last year, skyrocketing by more than 114 percent.

“Interest is up,” said Aviation Science instructor and chair Larry Altree. “This fall, our beginning classes will be at capacity and we already have waiting lists.”

The effects of this enrollment include a dramatic increase in financial aid applications. During last academic year the college received 32,000 applications. As of last week, it has received 32,700 applications for this upcoming academic year already and still have all of fall, winter, spring and summer to go yet. Adding to the pressure is that the federal government has increased the number of applications it audits, extending the time when students receive their money. To help with the influx and speed up processing at PCC’s end, the college hired additional staff and set up a special room at the PCC Library at the Sylvania Campus dedicated to processing applications.

“College staff are working to come up with options to help these students so they can enroll this fall and receive financial aid during winter term.” Pulliams said.

The college is so busy officials have been preparing to deal with possible server crashes from the sheer number of students wanting to register for classes online at the college’s Web site. College Web support staff have worked hard all summer to prepare for the anticipated high load of log-ins today and most of this term with more servers and updating hardware. The PCC Web Team believes there will be an increase of 50 percent in usage, expecting more than 30,000 students to log-in 70,000 times today and more than 300,000 logins by the end of this week alone.

The college shuttle service ridership increased 34 percent last year, providing transportation to 178,079 passengers throughout the district. This is the highest ridership since the inception of the shuttle service, which runs strictly on bio fuels, just over a decade ago when it began as a small pilot project.

PCC balances the challenges of serving the big surge in enrollment with tight funding from the state. The college’s mission is to be accessible and affordable because you never know what future leader will start their academic career at a community college. PCC’s own president, Preston Pulliams, is a community college graduate – Muskegon Community College in Michigan.

“The sharp increase in enrollment is proof positive that PCC is a good place to be in bad economic times,” Pulliams said.

2009-10 PCC Highlights:

PCC goes tobacco free

On Wednesday, Sept. 9, PCC went completely tobacco free. The new policy is in effect on all campuses, training centers and locations, both indoors and out. The decision followed a lengthy survey of staff, faculty and students and was presented to the PCC Board, which weighed the responses and decided to provide a healthy and safe environment for the entire community. For more information, please visit at

Big grant helps dislocated workers

The college received an 11-month $674,988 grant from Worksystems Inc. to expand existing WorkSource Center services. The money will help support job seekers who complete occupational skills training or who would benefit from on-the-job-training. It also will assist businesses in hiring and training new employees.

Green Grants Initiative to help sustainability

The $80,000 Green Initiative Fund, approved by the PCC Board of Directors last spring, is a new initiative that allocates money to projects by students and staff that increase the amount of renewable energy used on campus, increase energy efficiency, and reduce the amount of waste created by the college.

Bookstore recycling program

The PCC Bookstore has started a recycling program with Green Earth Recyclers who donate books to charitable organizations. Others are ground into pulp and made into pizza boxes, plastic pen barrels or building products.

Foundation gives more money

The PCC Foundation announced that it has funded 201 students for the 2009-10 year. The total money awarded is $474,315, up from $304,748 that was dispersed in 2008-09. The average award was $2,360 and during the course of the upcoming academic year, the Foundation may award an additional $140,000 – bringing the total to a projected $614,000 for the year. Learn more about the PCC Foundation.

Board adds new members, leadership

For the upcoming 2009-10 year, David Squire was sworn in as vice chair of the Board and Deanna Palm was appointed to be the new member from Zone 7 (Washington County), replacing Marilyn McGlasson. Harold Williams was sworn in as the Chair in July and Gene Pitts as a new member representing Zone 6 (east Washington County and Southwest Portland), replacing Jaime Lim. Pitts was elected to the board in May and will oversee east Washington County and southwest Portland. Find out more about the PCC board members.

Events Calendar

Harvest Festival (October) – The ninth annual Harvest Festival will be held just in time for Halloween. It will go from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Oct. 24, Rock Creek Campus, 17705 N.W. Springville Road. Attendees get a free pumpkin from the Rock Creek Campus pumpkin patch as well as enjoy much entertainment and arts and crafts.

Sylvania Winter Powwow (January) – The powwow features dancers, college fair, Northwest Indian Veterans Association Color Guard, Native American merchandise vendors, and Native American food like fry bread and tacos.

Cascade Festival of African Films (February) – This event based at the Cascade Campus and North Portland is entirely organized by volunteers and has shown more than 250 films from Africa since its inception in 1991 – free of charge.

Asian New Year (February) – This annual event at the Southeast Center features music, arts and crafts, entertainment, games, food, door prizes and lion dancers.

Semana de la Raza (April) – Based at the Rock Creek Campus, it features movies, lectures, migrant clothing drive, artwork and an awards dinner honoring Latino culture.

Art Beat (May) – The largest festival of the year spreads out to all PCC campuses the second week of May. The weeklong festival highlights local, regional and nationally known artists and includes visual art, dance, music, theater and literary events.

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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