Community College Funding
Oregon’s community colleges – their faculty and staff – serve as our state’s economic first-responders. Over 380,000 Oregonians are enrolled at 17 community colleges around the state. By providing professional training and serving as an affordable bridge to a 4-year degree, Oregon’s community college system is a driver of business development and job creation needed to get Oregon’s economy moving again.
Investment in Oregon’s Community Colleges has not kept pace with student demand. Enrollment at Oregon’s community colleges has skyrocketed in the midst of the state’s economic recession. This increase in student enrollment often correlates with the rates of unemployment in many parts of our state. Since the beginning of the great recession college enrollment has jumped over 30 percent while state funding has dropped over 20 percent.
As enrollment has reached record-highs, the state’s budget shortfall has led to dramatically reduced state funding. Current state support is less than what community colleges were funded at in 1999. The result has been cuts in academic programs, cuts to student support services and staff, and the steady erosion of full-time faculty.
The Future of Oregon's Community Colleges
With the creation of the Oregon Education Investment Board and the state's effort to create a seamless public education system (pre-K - post secondary), we need to ensure that we reinvest in our community colleges so they can be accessible and affordable to all Oregonians.
Toward that end, OEA has been advocating for the creation of a post-secondary Quality Education Model (QEM). Currently, we have no research based tools to help us determine what community colleges need to effectively serve all students.
In addition to reinvesting in community colleges, Oregon must be mindful of the harmful unintended consequences of changes to the post-secondary budget allocation process. A current proposal under consideration by the OEIB suggests moving away from enrollment based funding and instead, tying a significant portion of community college funding to completion rates. Tying funding to completion rates is completely contrary to the mission of Oregon’s 17 Community Colleges. In fact, tying funding to completion rates has the unintended consequence of eroding the quality of the educational experience for students. This will also have a direct impact on community colleges’ ability to provide the skills and retraining Oregonians need to reenter the workforce or make a better future for their family.