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PCC sees big gains in Westside enrollment

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Portland Community College’s credit enrollment is skyrocketing and it’s that way because of the Metro West’s population boom. This has resulted in a 10-percent gain in students year over year for PCC’s Westside counties – Yamhill, Columbia and Washington.

Between the 2007-08 and the 2008-09 school years, PCC had a surge of 11.3 percent in students from Washington County, 9.9 percent from Columbia County and 9.9 percent from Yamhill County. Unofficial total credit students from each county for the past year are 19,292 from Washington, 1,448 from Yamhill and 1,058 from Columbia.

“As our student numbers swell, we’re seeing unprecedented diversity in age and ethnicity among our student body,” said Linda Gerber, president of the Sylvania Campus. “Faculty and staff are doing their utmost to meet the need for more classes and more student services in the face of decreased funding from the legislature.”

As a result, the college is morphing services and expanding opportunities to serve this steady expansion in credit student enrollment. For instance the Hillsboro Center will move to a new location in town due to 63 percent rise in students. Rock Creek’s divisions are busting at the seams with 46 percent growth in the Business and Humanities Division and 41 percent in Social Science and College Prep.

PCC will shuffle its programs out of the Washington County Workforce Training Center on Walker Road to the new Willow Creek facility and administrative site – the Willamette Building in downtown Portland. This will free up additional classroom space at Rock Creek and Sylvania as administrators move to the downtown location.

To address the rise in credit students from Yamhill County, the college will begin offering credit courses in the Newberg and Dundee in fall 2010 and has enlisted the support of the PCC Newberg Advisory Committee – made up of several key community constituents – to find a temporary location for the launch. Meanwhile, PCC is researching available property on which to build a permanent facility of approximately 12,000 square feet, with room to grow to meet future educational needs.

PCC anticipates offering lower division transfer courses out of the new educational center, but to be certain, PCC will be surveying the Newberg community this fall, asking for feedback. Results from the survey should be available for review in November. Additionally, a part-time faculty fair is being organized for March 2010, with the hope that PCC will be able to hire local talent to help teach courses for the fall 2010 kick-off. Talks are under way to find a classroom venue in Sherwood, too.

“We’re seeing a dramatic uptick in students seeking job training and career exploration," Gerber said. “And the faculty and staff in our classrooms, on-line courses, and in our advising and career counseling offices are stepping up to meet that need.”

In Washington County, according to Associate Dean of Student Development Heather Lang, the Rock Creek Campus has staffed up in advising by creating a temporary team of four peer advisers to provide 64 additional advising hours each week. The department also has added a fifth academic adviser on a temporary basis for 30 hours per week. The new crew has begun strategizing on how to provide increased access to financial aid, assessment and advising. So far, they have set up quick advising services during peak hours to decrease waiting times and created a board listing new classes stationed in the lobby of Building 9 next to student services.

Meanwhile Instruction and Student Development added 11 new sections, providing approximately 300 additional classroom seats in key gateway courses including reading, writing, math, chemistry, English as a second language and college guidance. Rock Creek Dean of Students Birgitte Ryslinge notes that staff is still poring over wait lists and talking with advisers to identify other sections that may need to be added. Administrators also are working with adjunct faculty to make sure available instructors are in place by September 21, the start of fall term.

In Columbia County, PCC has operated a shuttle services to connect local students to the Rock Creek Campus and Campus President David Rule is exploring future plans for the area with local leadership. In the past, the college has had a center in St. Helens, but was discontinued after a lack of enrollment at that site earlier this decade.

About James Hill

James G. Hill, an award-winning journalist and public relations writer, has been the Communications Specialist for the Office of Public Affairs at Portland Community College since November of 1999. A graduate of Portland State University, J... more »