Above: Last fall 200 Future Connect students enrolled at PCC.
Below: First-generation college students comprise 40% of PCC's student population.
// Photos by Christopher Barth
As tuition costs around the state continue their upward climb, corporate partnerships and scholarships are critical to ensure low-income students have equal access to post-secondary education. During the 2012-13 school year, tuition increases ranged from 3.8% at Portland State University to 9.9% at Southern Oregon University.
A full-time student at PCC carries an annual tuition load of approximately $4,000, a relatively inexpensive education. The high rate of return is one of the reasons Oregon companies have a history of investing in PCC programs. Intel, for example, supports the microelectronics program and hires a significant number of the program’s graduates. SolarWorld partners with the college to train future employees.
“We have quite a bit of corporate support,” PCC director of development Kim Kono says, and it is this support that makes educational opportunities for disadvantaged young people possible.
In the 21st century, higher education is increasingly important for job attainment. At the same time, the traditional four-year university is out of reach for a growing number of students. Now more than ever, low-income students are looking to community colleges to meet their educational goals. The Campaign for Opportunity aims to make those goals a reality. “No other institution provides the same kind of access to a college education that we do, and to this particular group of students,” Watkins says.
Approximately 1.3 million students have attended PCC since it was founded in 1961, and in the past five years alone, the college awarded 16,000 certificates and degrees in 80 different areas of study. With 94,000 students across 13 school districts, it is the largest institution of higher education in Oregon.