Like other higher education institutions in Oregon, Central Oregon Community College is facing an uncertain budget. But funding for a major addition to its Redmond Campus remains on track.

Gov. Kate Brown included $8 million for a new academic building in her proposed 2019-21 budget. That would pay for half of the $16 million project, with local matching money responsible for the remainder.

The building will offer new degrees and programs than are now available in Redmond and also improve the atmosphere of the 25-acre site near Redmond Municipal Airport, said outgoing COCC President Shirley Metcalf.

“We’re looking at it having more of a campus feel,” she said after a March 19 “all-college” meeting at the campus.

The Redmond campus serves more than 1,000 students. That’s a far cry from when Building No. 1 opened with 99 students in 1997.

While the college isn’t as worried about the money for the new building, Metcalf said it is important to defend funding for COCC.

The Redmond campus now offers veterinary technician, automotive technology, manufacturing and science programs. As part of its 2018-19 strategic plan, the college is doing a “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats” analysis of its branch campuses, which includes locations Madras and Prineville.

That includes getting feedback from students and using the report to inform faculty and staff and get support for the needs of the branch campus students, according to a sheet handed out at the meeting.

COCC is having focus groups with students from the branch campuses to help it collect data on the students’ experience with support services, technology, what’s offered academically and online and other distance learning.

“The focus is on Redmond, Madras and Prineville, in addition to Bend,” Matt McCoy, COCC administration vice president, told a small audience of local officials and college representatives. “This is something we are consciously saying, alright we have a mature environment on the Bend campus, we have infrastructure there, we have the course offerings there.”

McCoy said he talked to a student who emphatically asked for more courses to be offered at the branch campuses, so they don’t have to go to Bend.

“I know that we can’t always get as far as we want to get to everywhere at the college, but know that that is a focal point of our thinking,” he said.

The increase in online learning should also help mitigate the disparity in class offerings between the campuses, McCoy said.

Meanwhile, officials told the audience that a large tuition increase could be needed if the state House Ways and Means Committee doesn’t increase the $590.6 million proposed budget for the state’s 17 community colleges. According to the Oregon Community College Association, a budget of $647 million is needed to keep current service levels and tuition increases to 3.5 percent or lower statewide.

Most community colleges are anticipating tuition increases between 5 percent and 10 percent, as well as fee increases, said COCC Chief Financial Officer David Dona. Some are even looking at charging more for tuition for more expensive programs.

Another issue facing COCC is a seven year enrollment decline, Dona said.

“We’re forecasting eight years,” he said. “It could be more.”

Metcalf said she expects continued success for the Redmond campus with new President Laurie Chesley taking over. Chesley is currently provost and executive vice president for academic and student affairs at Grand Rapids Community College in Michigan.

Metcalf is leaving her post June 30 after serving with COCC since 2011, as president since 2014.

— Reporter: 541-548-2186, gfolsom@redmondspokesman.com

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