College students shouldn't pay for state disinvestment
Community colleges across the state are facing steep tuition increases and extreme budget gaps due to our state's disinvestment of funding. Over the last 10 years, Oregon funding of community colleges has dwindled, and we have been forced to continually raise tuition to close the gap. This is unfair to our students, our businesses and our community.
On April 10, the Clackamas Community College Board of Education made the decision that our students should no longer bear the burden of insufficient state funding. Rather than voting on a recommended 7 percent tuition increase, we opted for a modest 3 percent increase. However, this decision means that CCC will have a potential budget gap of $3.5 million in the next biennium, which cut could result in staff and program cuts, if we do not receive sufficient funding from the state.
We know tuition is already a barrier for our students. We heard from them on April 10. Community-college students are not traditional college students — they work more than one job while taking classes, they are parents, they are first-generation college students, English may not be their first language. They come to CCC because it is affordable and close to home. If we don't receive the funding we need from the state to keep tuition affordable, students will experience steep tuition increases.
Our students supply the local workforce. In the past year, Clackamas County employment has grown by 2,700 jobs. The majority of those jobs are in the fields of health services, construction, manufacturing, transportation, warehousing and utilities. These are jobs that require the career-technical education (CTE) provided by Clackamas Community College.
In a survey conducted by the Oregon Employment Department in 2017, Clackamas County had roughly 8,200 job vacancies at any given time. Among those vacancies were jobs in the construction, manufacturing and health care, which are also CTE jobs. The survey also found that high-paying vacancies are more likely to require education beyond high school.
Community colleges provide that vital career-technical education that supplies a trained workforce to our district, which directly impacts our economy. But it is more than just the health of our economy, it is the health of our community.
Community colleges offer an affordable route for people to gain the skills they need to land jobs that will support their families. More than 80 percent of our CTE graduates get jobs within six months of graduation. These are in-demand, high-paying jobs.
If you believe in the value of Clackamas Community College, now is the time contact your state legislators and let them know that we need proper funding for the continued success of our students and the health of the Clackamas County economy.
Clackamas Community College Board of Education elected officials who signed on to this letter include Greg Chaimov, Milwaukie; Chris Groener, Oregon City; Dave Hunt, Gladstone; Irene Konev, Canby; Jane Reid, Estacada; Betty Reynolds, West Linn; and Rob Wheeler, Happy Valley.