Community colleges balk at governor's budgets
Gov. Kate Brown last week unveiled a recommended "base budget" that would increase funding for Oregon schools, and an "investment budget," the funding for which is not yet known, that would do even more.
But community colleges — including Portland Community College, which serves Washington County — are crying foul. Both budgets undercut their programs, they say.
Brown's "base budget" recommendation calls for $543 million for the Community College Support Fund, which would result in deep cuts at community colleges, according to a press release.
The "investment budget" is pegged at $646.7 for community colleges, contingent on the state raising new revenue by $2 billion for the biennium.
"Those most affected by the proposed budget would be our students, whose access to higher education would be limited because of the funding shortfall," said PCC President Mark Mitsui. "Such limitations run counter to our mission and commitment to opportunity and equitable student success."
The "investment budget" is the governor's wish list. She is leaving it up to the Legislature to figure out how to pay for it.
Both budget scenarios are significantly lower than the level being requested by the Oregon Community College Association's Board of Directors, in partnership with the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
In a press release sent Tuesday, PCC said the governor's base budget would impose a 4.7 percent cut to the Community College Support Fund, resulting in tuition increases of 17.5 percent each year of the 2019-21 biennium.
The governor's investment budget — if funded — would increase the support fund to $646.7 million, the amount necessary to maintain current programs and services, and keep tuition increases to approximately 3.5 percent statewide each year of the biennium.
Mitsui said PCC is heavily focused on creating career technical education, which would get short shrift under the base budget. "If the base budget becomes reality, thousands of underrepresented and first-generation college students would suffer," according to the PCC press release.
"As Portland's economy grows, so does demand for highly skilled employees," Mitsui said. "Community colleges are a fundamental part of our educational pipeline, with proven programs to problem solve many of our region's needs — if properly and realistically funded by the state Legislature."