Since November of last year, administrators, faculty, staff and students from community colleges and universities throughout Oregon have been busy meeting with legislators regarding the state’s investment in higher education.
Gov. John Kitzhaber has put forth a budget that earmarks $428 million for Oregon’s 17 community colleges for the 2013-15 biennium. Those of us associated with the state’s community colleges have appreciated the positive direction of this budget — up from $395 million in the 2011-13 biennium.
That said, our full-time enrollment over the past few years has skyrocketed: At Portland Community College alone, we’ve witnessed a 44 percent spike. The reality is that $428 million is insufficient to meet the needs of community college students across the state. As such, we were disappointed with the recent announcement from the co-chairs of the Ways and Means Committee that they had not recommended an increase to the governor’s budget for community colleges.
To prevent cuts to services and classes for our students, community colleges are continuing to lobby for a $510 million investment level from the state. At PCC, this funding level will enable the college to ensure student access and success, as well as improve our student outcomes and completions. Funding below this level will necessitate tuition increases, significant reductions in staffing and services, and cuts to programs that respond to business needs for a trained work force.