Community Colleges Are Key; Don't Cut Their Budgets

Article excerpt

Byline: GUEST VIEWPOINT By Joe McCully For The Register-Guard

Today you can't pick up the newspaper without encountering announcements of layoffs, bailouts or bankruptcies. Some employees even learn of their job losses this way.

Oregon's unemployment rate is among the five highest in the country. With President Obama promising to create more than 3 million jobs in the next two years, one has to wonder: Where the training will come from for these new jobs?

Community colleges are usually the first place people look when they are displaced in difficult economic times. Known as the "first responders," community colleges offer more than 124 professional and technical programs, with plans to offer new programs in biofuels, wind energy and other green technologies. With statewide enrollment up 10.3 percent over last fall, it's evident that people are turning to community colleges to retrain and remain competitive. University enrollment is up only 5.2 percent for the same period.

The Oregon Employment Department has developed a list of the top 20 occupations in Oregon through 2016. The department's Occupational Prioritization List shows the greatest need for registered nurses (no surprise). It's interesting to note of the top 10 occupations, only one (physicians and surgeons) is not trained and educated at a community college level.

Which begs the question: Why is Gov. Ted Kulongoski proposing to cut the community college budget $15 million while giving increases to state universities and public schools?

Lane Community College's enrollment is up 13.5 percent over last year, and the other 16 Oregon community colleges are showing double-digit increases as well. Classes at Umpqua Community College in Douglas County, which has the highest unemployment rate in Oregon, are so crowded that students attend classes in meeting rooms and lobbies. Also important to note, the percentage of Oregonians earning associate degrees is increasing, while the percentage of those earning four-year degrees is remaining constant.

The Business Development Center at LCC is charged with providing information and a wide range of educational services and resources for managers and owners of local businesses. Last year more than 500 people and businesses were helped by the center. Jim Lindly, director of the center, says the center is advising more people than ever who are considering starting up their own business. People who have lost their jobs or who are concerned about job security make up most of these. …