When the 2018 legislative session begins on Feb. 5, our state leaders will have the opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to education in Douglas County.

Umpqua Community College is joining Oregon's 16 other community colleges to ask the legislature to restore $32 million in funding to community colleges. State leaders can show they are serious about helping our community by funding UCC with the same increase given to public universities last year.

In the 11th hour last July, the legislature increased funding to public universities by over 10% when threatened with double-digit tuition increases and offered community colleges less than a 4 percent bump. The meager increase followed the 2015-2017 budget, when community college funding also only increased one half as much as public universities.

Over one half of UCC's funding comes from state support. Four years of meager state increases have forced our college to make deep cuts, over $1 million last year and nearly as much this year. UCC must be affordable, so it's not an option to increase tuition to make up the shortfall.

Cuts to the UCC budget affect everyone in our community and especially our students. Take student advising. Students need advisors to succeed. Advisors help students decide which classes to take, discover career opportunities, and find jobs. Because of cuts, the College has reduced the number of advisors far below what is recommended. Restored state funding would help increase advisors, so students can achieve their goals.

Fortunately, our local legislators — Sens. Kruse and Prozanski; and Representatives Heard, Smith, and Hayden — understand and support our plight. Now, we need the legislative leaders to support community colleges at the same level as public universities. Equitable funding for UCC will help people in our community gain skills for better jobs, so they can improve their lives.

Steve Loosley is a local business person and member of the Umpqua Community College Board of Education. The views in this article are strictly his own and not those of the Board.

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