No one wants to see a promised $8.5 million from the Oregon Legislature get stripped away from Umpqua Community College.
The state funding has been designated for the college to construct a $17 million building to educate future health care workers.
Landing the cash, however, means matching it with funds from Douglas County. Coming up with the best way to do that has the college’s board of trustees and President Joe Olson in a bit of a quandary.
They’ve resisted forming a campaign to raise the funds through a bond measure, because county voters soundly rejected a $40 million proposal two years ago.
Instead, trustees believe they can raise $5 million from grants and donors. They’ve voted to borrow the remainder, as much as $3.5 million, and repay the loan with increased student fees.
They expect the fee to be $5 or $6 per credit and they’ve given themselves until September to decide when they would implement the fee.
We question this approach and urge the trustees to spend this interim period planning a campaign and fundraising effort so the students don’t have to bear so much of the cost.
Why? Primarily because of the nature of the college. Umpqua Community College was founded 50 years ago by this community because it was needed, wanted and approved by voters.
Expansion of the college should come about for the same reasons. Community support and community funding must be shown. It shouldn’t be hard to find. Everyone knows we have an aging population in Douglas County and the need for health care workers is increasing.
If trustees were to propose a bond again, it would be for a much lower dollar amount, the purpose would be better defined, and the economic climate just might feel a little more comfortable to voters.
The college also may have endeared itself to many voting families by reopening its pool, setting up a veterans center on campus, establishing a satellite campus in South County and offering free tuition to top county graduates.
Spreading the cost of a new health, nursing and science building across all Douglas County property owners would reduce the cost per person dramatically, as well as reducing the term of the bond.
Placing the extra fees on students could double their fees. Full-time students taking 15 credits pay an average of $85 per term now and that would spike to $165 or $175 per term, or as much as $525 for a single school year.
As recently as June 18, trustees said a loan backed by student fees would be instituted only if the college didn’t meet its fundraising goal by the February deadline set by the state. It seems premature to make a decision about a deadline that’s seven months away.
The trustees need the philosophical and financial support of the entire community before constructing this building. Nearly one-quarter of the cost shouldn’t be borne by students attending classes over the next 20 years.
Besides, the college would also like to build a new industrial arts building and the state has appropriated $8 million toward that building. Where will the college turn for the matching $8 million by 2017 if it’s already tapped out its students, and ducked the approval of voters on the health, nursing and science building?