Earlier this month we were thrilled when Oregon Gov. Kate Brown signed the remaining community college budget bills, providing funding for students as well as support for capital construction projects. This is significant not only for continued support for Treasure Valley Community College but for all community colleges statewide.
The $640.9 million appropriated to the Community College Support Fund will allow colleges to keep annual tuition increases under 5% statewide and help us all avoid another round of significant budget and program cuts. For TVCC, this meant we were able to hold tuition increases for next year at 3%.
Adjusted for inflation, we’ve seen state funding for community colleges remain essentially flat for a generation despite rising demands for degree and certificate programs.
This funding level over the current biennium will provide needed relief to nearly 300,000 community college students across Oregon.
In the 2019 session, the legislature made a historic investment in K-12 and pre-K-12 education. But the investment can’t stop there. Community colleges presented legislators with measurable and accountable outcomes for providing additional wrap-around student services and expanding career and technical education programs. We must do more if we want to make sure all Oregonians have the education and training they need, not only to be successful, but to meet the growing workforce vacancies in our state.
Increasingly, we are seeing more and more students return to college who need additional courses and support services in order to complete their degrees.
Investment in CTE and student success efforts would have helped to expand programs and would have significantly contributed to increased completion rates for students overall. Specifically, it’s estimated that additional dollars for statewide CTE programs would allow colleges to double the number of graduates (an additional 7,900 graduates per year) in programs such as welding, respiratory care, dental assisting, manufacturing and industrial technology, computer applications, aviation and fire science. While the budget community colleges received maintains most current services it did not fund either of these additional CTE and student success investments.
I’m so grateful for our students, faculty, staff, board members and community friends who rallied and responded when asked to advocate for supporting funding levels that would help us prevent more cuts this year. And while I am incredibly appreciative of what the Legislature was able to provide, I’m hopeful that we can continue the conversation about what additional investments can do for our community.
Every student who completes a degree, obtains a better job, fulfills their goal, and contributes back to our communities and our economy. And they improve the future opportunities for their own families. The dividends are almost immeasurable.
Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, and Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, have been generous with their time and their advocacy for ensuring community colleges are included in the statewide investments. I’m thankful we have their support as well as their pragmatic approach to reminding us there are only so many dollars available. But as we continue to show outcomes and a positive return on these investment dollars in the form of student success, I believe we’ll also be able to continue to make a “business case” for how this funding will result in economic growth for Oregon.
In the coming months, I look forward to working with the Governor’s office and our legislators to continue to build on the good work already done so every Oregonian has a clear path to success.
Dana Young is president of Treasure Valley Community College. The views and opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily represent those of The Argus Observer.