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MailTribune.com
  • In a tough economy, community colleges get results

  • and Kirk Gibson
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  • and Kirk Gibson
    The true value or quality of something can be judged only when it's put to use. In other words, results count. At Rogue Community College, we often say students enjoy one of the best educations in Oregon. But where's the proof?
    For the past eight years, RCC students transferring to Oregon colleges and universities have earned the highest overall grade point average in the state. RCC transfer students even topped the GPAs of students who entered Oregon universities as freshmen.
    Our transfer students' consistently high GPAs are a testament to the quality of RCC instruction. But our efforts don't stop there. RCC provides opportunities to students with tremendously varied backgrounds, incomes, skills and strengths to pursue academic or technical training. For example, only one-third of our students are traditional, right-out-of-high-school graduates.
    Yet about 25 percent of RCC credit students transfer to universities, including about 6 percent who go on to attend Southern Oregon University, our nearest neighbor in the Oregon University System and a longtime ally and partner in educating the region's students.
    Where's the proof?
    Amanda Holbrook graduated from RCC in 2008 with a 3.7 GPA. A Ford Family Foundation scholarship recipient, she transferred to SOU, graduated with a bachelor of science in sociology, and recently started a master's in social work program at Portland State University.
    Many who come to Rogue are seeking new careers or to improve skills in existing occupations. RCC offers more than 85 certificates and degrees in real-world jobs ranging from automotive technician to dental assistant. And while we don't track every student's progress after they leave the college, we do know we're creating new taxpayers.
    Where's the proof?
    RCC recently tracked 13 new dental technicians we trained who earned a combined annual income of $332,000. We also identified 26 RCC students who entered manufacturing careers and earned $836,000, 32 students who got jobs in the auto industry and earned $969,640, 22 who entered electronics careers and earned $1.2 million, and 65 who entered apprenticeships that earned a combined $2.7 million.
    RCC's partnerships with local businesses, agencies and advisory committees also contribute to the quality of students' education. Our partners influence curriculum, which helps us develop more relevant programs. Industry partners also provide numerous training opportunities for students such as clinical rotations and Cooperative Work Experience (CWE) placements, and frequently end up hiring the very graduates they helped us train.
    Where's the proof?
    Craig West was a dislocated mill worker who reinvented himself at RCC. West earned an associate of applied science degree and a certificate as a computer numerical control operator. Three years and a lot of hard work later (plus a CWE experience at Erickson Air-Crane), he landed a machinist job making helicopter parts for the Central Point-based company.
    Lastly, RCC offers many nontraditional ways for community members to benefit from our educational offerings, including Small Business Development Center classes, PowerUp Academy and Continuing Education opportunities.
    Where's the proof?
    Nathan Sleadd is the founding president and CEO of Sleaddventures, LLC. At 22 years of age, his thriving zipline business grossed about $2 million and employed 10 people whose wages average $35,000 a year. Wanting more planning focus for his growing business, Sleadd began working with the RCC Small Business Development Center, whose advisers helped him build and implement a strategic business plan. Sleadd was named 2012 Oregon Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration.
    RCC is rightly proud of the education we provide, and we're proud of our students' success. After all, results are what count.
    Despite these successes, RCC is facing continuing budget cuts. Since the recession began, state funding for community colleges has dropped from $500 million to $395.5 million while statewide enrollment grew over 35 percent. This has resulted in cuts to course sections, programs and services, along with higher tuition rates for students.
    The governor recently released his state budget with a Community College Support Fund of $428 million. At this funding level, RCC won't be able to restore lost course sections or program areas, restore vital support services driving student completion, or hold the line on tuition.
    To continue achieving student success, train people for jobs, and to promote completion, RCC and the other Oregon community colleges need a state investment of $510 million in the new biennium budget. Maybe when the legislative session begins, our legislators will take note and remember — results are what counts.
    Margaret Bradford is director of community relations and Kirk Gibson is vice president-instruction at Rogue Community College
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