Coastal Community Colleges are critical to the economic health and educational goals of the Central Coast and Coastal Range. Our House District 10 includes Oregon Coast Community College in Lincoln County and Tillamook Bay Community College in Tillamook.
Recently, I was honored to be the only legislator invited to speak at a dinner of Oregon’s Community College Presidents. I told them what they already know:
Local colleges teach the tools and professional skills needed in a specific region. Quite simply, they turn unemployment into re-employment.
They help students complete their basic education. And they help students aiming for a university degree reduce their costs and stay closer to home as they transition to a four-year degree.
They provide critical support for local small businesses.
This last point is particularly important. When you plan to start a restaurant, you may know about food and cooking but may not know as much about employee management, bookkeeping, taxes or advertising. Our Small Business Development Centers each advise and mentor over 200 emerging small businesses each year. And in this coastal district, small business means jobs!
Early in the Legislative Session, I sought out representatives of the Community College system in an effort to work together on stable funding.
Oregon is committed to funding schools. K-12 education began the session with a proposal for $6.1 billion. That increased to $6.5 billion, and in the newest budget projections, is listed at $6.75 billion. This is important progress.
By contrast, community colleges are budgeted for $423 million and are asking for $450 million. That funding would return them to the level they received in 2003.Tuition at our two colleges is among the highest in the state. I’m committed to finding support for our local institutions, our local businesses and our local students.
To provide some context, Oregon’s new education goals ask for “40-40-20”. That refers to 40% of Oregonians with university degrees, 40% with community college degrees or professional certificates, and 20% with high school diplomas.
Community colleges are involved in each of the 40-40-20 targets. They help students transition to University while saving money and staying closer to home. They offer Associate Degrees and professional certificates, and they help students complete their basic education requirements. At the same time, our colleges support students who return again and again throughout their lifetimes as educational needs and goals change.
The bottom line is that OCCC and TBCC make life better here at the coast. I’m pleased to be one of their strongest and most persistent advocates in Salem.