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Campus closure plans suspended

The Columbia Gorge Community College board wants to revisit a planned closure of the Hood River campus — to offset a $1.6 million budget deficit — so those plans have been put on hold. That news was delivered Thursday afternoon by Dr. Frank Toda, president and chief executive officer of the college.

He said the plan to deal with the deficit, which is expected to rise to more than $2 million by summer 2015 if no corrective measures are taken, also involves staff layoffs and a new search for additional revenue.

The board wants to take a look at the piece involving the Hood River Campus, which was planned to close next June. A special meeting will take place in early December to facilitate that discussion, said Toda.

He declined to comment further on the potential closure, or how the issue of Hood River taxpayers approving a bond levy to build that campus would be addressed. He said, until the board provides more direction, classes will continue as usual.

Meanwhile, Toda and other CGCC administrators are moving ahead with the other measures to reduce the overhead and find additional funding. He said it is still too early in that process to provide details about how the plan will work.

“It takes a number of months of lead time to work the details and that’s why we had to get started,” he said.

Toda said the focus of administrators is three-pronged:

• Staff layoffs are likely to take place and a hiring freeze enacted. Discussions will be undertaken with labor unions about the possibility of some faculty and staff taking early retirement.

• The college will meet with education and community partners to see if additional funding streams can be found. State and federal grants will also be sought, as well as capital from private foundations.

• CGCC will seek to boost student enrollment, which has been down across the state since recovery from the Great Recession began. This also will require meetings with community partners to develop more customized workforce training programs, or enactment of new ones.

Toda said it has become imperative that the Oregon Legislature find more funding for community colleges, which are operating with less revenue than in 2007, before the Great Recession began.

A recent Oregonian report ranks the state as 47th in the nation for its funding of community colleges.

Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, said Thursday afternoon “it is disappointing that CGCC is looking at closing the Hood River campus but I understand that the board has to make some very tough decisions in light of budget shortfalls.”

He added: “I am fully committed to working in the 2015 Legislative Session to get the funding needed for our community colleges. Oregon’s community college do an amazing job with too few resources.”

He said the state will never come close to meeting the “middle 40 of our 40-40-20 goal” without more investiture in its two-year colleges.

Huffman was referencing Gov. John Kitzhaber’s plan to make Oregon “one of the best educated citizenries in the world” by 2025. His plan is to have 40 percent of adults in the state earning at least a bachelor’s degree, 40 percent receiving an associate’s or postsecondary certificate, and 20 percent obtaining at least a high school diploma or equivalent.

CGCC, like other educational institutions across the state, must fufill the conditions of an achievement compact to show that work is being done to reach the governor’s goal.

Outcome measures and guidelines are coordinated with the Oregon Department of Community College and Workforce Development. Although CGCC has a graduate rate of 41.4 percent, officials would like to see about 10 more students each year earn degrees or certificates to fulfill its role under the state plan.


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