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PCC grows for 10th straight term

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As the economy flounders, more and more students are turning to Portland Community College.

Student services at the Cascade Campus has been busy all year helping new and current students.

Core full-time credit enrollment (FTE) at Portland Community College gained 20.3 percent in this term compared to winter term last year. It’s the 10th consecutive term of growth for PCC. Overall, PCC grew by 12.1 percent in total headcount, which means the larger surge in credit numbers shows people are going back to get their degree. The FTE numbers determines how much money PCC gets from the state’s community college funding formula.

“With 20 percent growth, it’s been a challenge for everyone, but PCC is working hard to accommodate this unprecedented surge in enrollment,” said PCC District President Preston Pulliams. “From our registration, financial aid to our student support services staff, we are dedicated to making the educational experience a smooth one for students.”

Total headcount for the winter is 40,989 (an increase of 4,415 from winter 2009) and 8,582 in FTE (increase of 1,450 from a year ago), according to the college’s fourth-week winter enrollment report (the standard week for reporting enrollment figures). 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.

Even though the amount of money PCC receives from the state is based on FTE, the growth in credit students has been across all of the state’s 16 other community colleges and zeroes out any funding increases. So, FTE growth doesn’t necessarily mean the college will receive additional money.

But the growth in students at PCC does mean that the financial aid system is stressed. Among colleges and universities nationwide, PCC ranks among the top-10 in percentage increase of financial aid applications this year. Students at the college have amassed more than $50 million in loans to pay for their classes. So, emphasis has been placed on the PCC Foundation’s current drive to raise funds to earn $320,000 in matching funds from the Miller Foundation for student scholarships.

Registration area at the Southeast Center on the first day of school was also packed.

Another area where students were going to find money for school is the Oregon Opportunity Grants, which ran out of funds early in the summer of 2009. Political science student Christina Lais, 27, of North Portland, was one of those students who missed out. She has been at PCC for a year and is looking to become a lawyer. She wasn’t able to find a job as a dog groomer and decided to go back to school, but finding loans or funds to help pay for this career change has been tough.

“Loans and grants were my only source of income until I got my job in student government,” Lais said. “My parents are not well-off financially. My dad is an art teacher and my mom is a secretary. While education is important to them, it’s not something

that they can afford to help me with. When I found out that the grant was cut off before the fall term even started, I was really frustrated. I had been working my butt off in school, even through the summer, and did not realize there was a cutoff date for the grant.”

Lais said the grant would have allowed her to purchase textbooks and help with school supplies and clothing. This term, Lais couldn’t afford to buy two books she needed and, as she closes in on mid term exams, she still doesn’t have money for the books.

Rock Creek Campus staff set up student services tables to serve the additional students in the initial weeks.

“I’m lucky that one of the books is offered in the library but it costs me two dollars to photocopy one chapter, plus a lot of time wasted,” Lais added. “If I don’t choose to do that, my only option is to read the book in the library. Since there is only one copy of the book, and there are definitely other students in the same position I am in, I don’t feel right about borrowing the book for hours upon hours to read everything while making other students wait.

“Having clothes for school is important too. I have not been able to buy myself a new item of clothing for years,” she continued. “A majority of the clothes I wear have been donated to me by other students, including my only pair of pants and shoes.”

As the enrollment growth continues to steepen, PCC programs are burgeoning to capacity. The bond, passed in November 2008, is being implemented to combat the enrollment surge by updating lab technology, adding classroom space, expanding workforce training programs and upgrading health and safety areas. Already, facilities at Willow Creek and downtown Portland are opening to help alleviate congestion and a center in Newberg, as well as upgrades to the four major campuses, are in the planning stages.

Lines wrapping around the halls of the CC Building have become customary at the Sylvania Campus.

Plus, the college received good news from Portland Mayor Sam Adam’s State of the City Address where he promised $2 million scholarship fund for struggling students attending PCC and other community colleges.

Each of PCC’s comprehensive campuses offers complete paths to an associate’s degree at their respective locations. Here is how they fared:

Southeast Center, 2305 S.E. 82nd and Division

The campus, which allows students to complete many of the courses toward a college transfer degree, saw its core enrollment increase by more than 32 percent summer 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.

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 the biggest growth. Credit students increased by 27.4 percent and total headcount by 24.7 percent.

Cascade Campus, 705 N. Killingsworth St.

The campus, in inner Northeast Portland, is home to the trades and industry, education, first responder, fire science and business administration programs. It swelled by 24.8 percent in FTE and 22 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 interpretation and automotive technology – experienced a 19.2 percent increase in student enrollment and 18.5 percent growth in FTE.

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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