Since I began writing this column in 1989, I have discussed BMCC only in terms of the cultural contributions it makes to the community. There are exemplary concerts, art shows and plays. The spring Arts and Culture Festival (April 14 - 18) is an open-to-the-public event offering all sorts of edifying activities, events and workshops. Its theme this year is "Celebrating Community."

Now it is time to talk about the college in terms of its dire financial straits, and how it is doing in spite of all that is happening. In my 33 years working at BMCC, there is no question that these are the most challenging times. In order to deal with all of this, major changes are occurring and everyone is working to accept our new paradigm. Cutbacks have happened and will continue to take place; regardless, BMCC is committed to continue to provide the citizens of its communities a comprehensive community college with a standard of excellence in spite of having to do more with less.

It is our purpose to make sure BMCC students can continue to earn all degrees and certificates our college offers, so they will be ready to advance to four-year universities if they wish. We are determined to offer as many professional-technical programs as possible so our PTE students are workforce-ready.

BMCC is steadfast in its promise to offer educational programs for students needing instruction in literacy, ESL, GED, Adult High School Diploma and college preparatory courses. BMCC's intent is also to extend our programs and services to worksites and to make sure we have customized training for workers.

BMCC will continue to keep open its outlying centers in Hermiston, Milton Freewater, Boardman and Baker City, as well as our COD centers in La Grande, John Day, Enterprise and Heppner. BMCC faculty and staff are working diligently to acquire grants and contributions that will provide badly needed funding.

In order to keep these promises BMCC is making, things won't look the same. There will not be as many elective or self-enhancement courses. However, there will be enough courses available for students to earn their degrees and certificates. There might not be quite as many services, but the necessary ones will be provided in new ways. There won't be as many full-time faculty members, but there will be adjunct instructors to make sure our curriculum is not lacking. The building that will be closed down might be rented. All classrooms on campus will be filled with courses as many hours as possible, and courses will be offered during more non-traditional times.

BMCC will survive this crisis. It always has had and has greatly appreciated incredibly strong support from the communities in its district. Its faculty, staff and administration are well qualified and want to live in eastern Oregon. They are persevering to keep programs and necessary systems healthy in spite of cutbacks in personnel, equipment, supplies, travel, custodial services and some course offerings.

During these trying times, BMCC will continue to need support from its community members. The BMCC faculty, who are dedicated to their students and to this college, are needed now more than ever before, even though some of their faces are changing because of retirements, retrenchments and the hiring of adjuncts.

Other community colleges in Oregon are also suffering from financial exigencies, but BMCC is our community college. Its woes affect us all, and its survival means a lot to eastern Oregon. BMCC is still strong, even though it has become a scarred veteran of the economic wars, which are assaulting and damaging education. This will eventually pass, just not soon enough.

Cynthia Hilden's column is published every other Tuesday.

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