Blue Mountain Community College is joining Oregon’s 16 other community colleges in a legislative request that will allow it to maintain momentum in supporting students to complete their programs and prepare more people for local jobs.
The alternative could be cuts in student services and other programs, or larger increases in tuition. Both slow down our mission to prepare local people to contribute to the economic vitality and cultural richness of our community.
It is clear that no one — including our legislators — intended for this situation to occur. Last July, the legislature added $70 million to Public University Support Fund to limit tuition increases and maintain student support at four-year schools, and $6 million in state funds were added to the Community College Support Fund for the same purpose.
Unfortunately, the amount for community college was $32 million short of accomplishing the same level of support for community college students as compared to students at four-year universities. It forces most community colleges to choose between large tuition increases or significant cuts to programs and services.
The community college funding formula is complicated, relying on revenues from both state and local sources.
It is possible that some confusion about this contributed to the situation as the state budget came together at the 11th hour last July.
Now we need action by the Legislature during its 35-day session, which began Feb. 5, so that community college students — and our communities — do not suffer a setback to local economic prosperity and student success.
A recent Emsi study has shown that for every $1 invested in an education at BMCC provides a $3.70 return on investment to a student over their working career — that’s a greater economic return to local communities than any other public investment. Community colleges work in partnership with K-12, four-year universities, and local industries to ensure the best outcomes for both students and the community.
A $32 million statewide investment in community colleges will pay huge dividends in momentum for our local economy. Please ask our local legislators to support BMCC and community colleges in Oregon.
Cam Preus is president of Blue Mountain Community College and Chris Brown is chair of the BMCC Board of Education.