Umpqua Community College’s board of education voted to cancel its Toyota T-Ten and general automotive programs and begin work immediately toward establishing a new one-year automotive certificate program.
Currently both automotive programs, which employ four faculty members, would provide students with an associate degree upon completion of the two-year program.
Several community members, including automotive business owners, wrote letters to the board to convince them to keep the programs going.
“A good program in place with comprehensive education and certifications is such a benefit to our industry,” wrote Mobile Tune General Manager Dave Weir. “I understand, as a business operator, that situations arise when a prudent manager must look at all goods and services in the organization to analyze their sustainability. I hope that the automotive program at UCC will be considered a necessary program to assist both local and regional needs for an incredibly complex industry.”
It is uncertain how long it will be until a one-year certificate program is developed.
Clint Newell Fixed Operation Director Frank Mesa said over the next five years, the auto dealership would need about two to three students each year.
Lithia Ford and Lithia Dodge service managers Robert Johnson and Andrew Kohlhoff also pleaded to keep the programs because of a need for qualified employees.
Thatcher said based on data from the past four years, no second-year course had more than 10 students enrolled.
“They’re hiring the students before completion of the program,” Thatcher said.
Thatcher also noted that based on first-year enrollment data, and the growing automotive program at Roseburg High School, there does appear to be a need and interest for a certificate program.
“Please know first that the proposal is about more than these specific programs,” UCC President Debra Thatcher wrote in her proposal to the board. “This is about how the college strategically invests its resources to produce the greatest return. Programs that drain our resources due to low enrollment and high cost take away from more viable programs with healthy enrollments.”
The programs cost $566,697 to operate last school year and are expected to cost $587,030 this school year, which equals a cost of $14,202 per student in 2018-2019.
Students currently enrolled in the program will be able to complete their studies. Equipment used for the Toyota T-Ten program, including the vehicles, would go back to Toyota.
Automotive instructor Kevin Mathweg has been working with local dealerships to provide vehicles.
A new program would need to be developed and approved by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission before students could enroll.
Board chair Steve Loosley called it “an awful decision” that needed to be made and offered to help find jobs for faculty members impacted by the elimination of the current programs.
Thatcher reiterated during the meeting that the automotive program is not the only program that’s being reevaluated due to high operating costs and declining enrollment and that making adjustments to programs is in the best interest of the college.
Other items that were acted upon during the meeting, included:
- Approve the development of plan for a reduction in force, due to declining enrollment and an expected decline in state funding. According to Thatcher, a 20% drop in enrollment, combined with a 20% decline in state funding, would negatively impact the college’s budget by $3.5 million.
- Approve the refinancing of the 2010 bond obligation.
- Agree on the memorandum of agreement with the classified union, which will cost the college more than $90,000 in additional benefit funding and pay.
- Award a five-year contract for the campus’ copier fleet.
- Accept $560,927 in federal coronavirus aid money, which will be added to the school’s budget.
- Adoption of the college budget as required by law in May. The school expects that the budget will need to be amended before it is finalized, due to the impact of COVID-19 on the economy and state allocations.