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RCC is 'bursting at the seams' to train health care workers

Rogue Community College has run out of room to train health care professionals to keep pace with the demands of medical employers in Jackson County.

“We beg, borrow and steal classrooms,” said Genna Southworth, dean of the School of Health and Public Service at RCC. “We’re bursting at the seams.”

The Legislature, recognizing the need for a new facility, this session earmarked an $8 million matching grant for RCC to build a new facility or to expand existing facilities.

Now, RCC just needs to raise the money to make the project a reality.

“We haven’t even come close to coming up with these matching dollars,” said Peter Angstadt, president of RCC.

The college has received $1 million from the Morris Family Foundation, $250,000 from Asante and $75,000 from Jackson County, as well as other donations, he said.

The $8 million for RCC has been in the works since 2013, when the Oregon Legislature first approved a matching grant that required the school to raise $8 million.

Angstadt said RCC estimates a new building could cost $12 million, which would require the school to come up with $6 million to go with $6 million from the state.

He said he anticipates it will take anywhere from six months to two years before the school announces something that will move the project forward.

Angstadt said there have been no serious discussions about where to place the new facility, except that it will likely be in Jackson County. “Most of the donations have been received from there,” he said.

He said there have been discussions about remodeling existing buildings or starting with an entirely new building. Angstadt said RCC has looked at upgrading facilities in both Jackson and Josephine counties.

RCC’s allied health care program includes training for certified nursing assistants, emergency medical technicians and dental assistants. When the matching grants were announced in 2013, the school said it planned to add programs for clinical laboratory assistants and acute care certified nursing assistants.

Angstadt said it’s too early to determine the impact a $10 million tuition program created by the Legislature will have on student enrollment and whether it will push up the timetable for completion of a health and sciences building.

Over the next year, educators will work out details for the program to aid students with tuition, Angstadt said.

A full-time student pays about $4,500 a year in tuition and fees. The tuition subsidy could absorb about $1,000 of those costs, based on early estimates.

“A lot of people have asked me about the $10 million,” Angstadt said. “It’s a good first step. When you start spreading all the money out over all students, it doesn’t go far.”

In the meantime, the demand for training in health and sciences can’t be met.

Southworth said the training students receive at RCC is in direct response to the needs of employers in Southern Oregon.

Two-hundred-fifty students are currently enrolled in various training programs, which is about double the number of five years ago.

If a new facility were built, Southworth said, another 125 students could be added to the program.

Each student requires classroom space as well as lab space for specific training in hands-on activities such as emergency and paramedic training.

At present, students are spread out around the three campuses in downtown Medford, White City and Grants Pass.

The hope is to bring them under one roof, said Southworth, who estimates a facility of about 40,000 square feet would provide the space necessary for an expanded program.

Southworth said RCC would like to add front office support programs to train students in medical billing and coding, but it doesn’t have the room for that program right now.

Employers are currently looking for 552 medical secretaries in the region, she said.

“There is no way we can keep up with that kind of demand,” Southworth said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.