More than a hundred students, instructors, graduates and industry professionals swarmed the Mt. Hood Community College Board of Education meeting Wednesday night, Nov. 20, and more than 75 people signed up to speak to defend the seven career-oriented programs the college has proposed to eliminate.
MHCC announced earlier this month that it planned to close seven of its smaller career-oriented programs, including cosmetology and environmental health and safety.
Automotive maintenance and light repair, business technology, practical nursing, broadcasting and wilderness leadership and experiential education (WLEE) are also on the chopping block.
Speakers, some choking up with emotion, slammed the process that came up with the list of cuts, many noting the information used to evaluate the programs was flawed. Many said the salary levels of graduates used were incorrect and job prospects underestimated. Some said there were better ways to cut costs at the college than shuttering these programs.
Allison Hass, a student in the WLEE program, fighting back tears, said, "I found my calling in this program."
She, like the other current students, will be able to complete their degrees and certificates, but she said, "I'm sad and angry for all the students like me who won't experience this."
Bess Wills, co-owner and general manager of Gresham Ford, urged the board to save the auto maintenance and light repair program, noting that her dealership currently employs three of the program's graduates and "they are excellent employees."
"There is no industry that needs trained technicians more than the auto industry," Wills said.
Megan Fonseca, safety director at Hillsboro's Advanced Technology Group and a graduate of the environmental health and safety program, said these professionals are in demand and the graduates "care deeply about saving lives."
"I urge you to consider keeping this program," she told the school board at the Wednesday meeting.
The crowd overflowed the small board room and dozens of people strained to hear from the hall. The overflow crowd chanted "bigger room, bigger room" before the meeting started. But the meeting was still held in the regular board room.
The programs scheduled to be phased out are not part of some of the larger, better-known programs at MHCC. For example, auto maintenance and light repair is not part of the auto technology programs Chrysler MCAP, Ford ASSET or Subaru-U.
Likewise, the licensed practical nursing is not part of MHCC's highly-competitive nursing program that is connected with Oregon Health & Science University.
But the one-year certificate LPN program sends 24 to 32 licensed practical nurses every year out to work in clinics, hospice programs, home health care, long-term care facilities and other places, Linda Fleshman, director of the practical nursing program said after the college's announcement.
The only alternative for students interested in this program would be to go to a for profit school at more than twice the price, Fleshman said.
Sean McGinty, an English instructor, criticized the process the college used to come up with the list as lacking input from key stakeholders such as the faculty in the programs.
"The process was disrespectful," he said.
"I've been angry all week," he added, and urged the board to "vote no on these cuts."
The MHCC District Board of Education will vote on the phase out of any program. The board is not expected to vote on the program cuts until the board meeting Wednesday, Dec. 18, or later.
The college announcement did not indicate a time frame for the end of these seven programs.
The "academic revitalization" review that led to the group of programs chosen to be phased out was initiated by MHCC's board of education. The review looked at 61 instructional disciplines and programs, the announcement said.
On Friday, Nov. 8, faculty and staff learned how their programs were classified.
The college said a team of full-time and part-time faculty, classified staff and instructional deans, developed the process and the four categories in which disciplines and programs could be placed.
Programs could either be maintained, grown, modified or phased out.
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