I am proud to be a second generation COCC student, but as a student leader I have seen firsthand how the college is failing district residents, students and ordinary taxpayers alike. As your representative on the college board of directors, these are the priorities that will inform my decisions:
- Eliminate waste. Taxing districts like COCC have a responsibility to spend public money carefully. The college’s board of directors in July approved spending $200,000 to rebuild its running track, despite the abundance of nearby parks and running trails in Bend. This money would be better spent lowering real barriers to working parents and rural students. As your representative on the board, I will never vote to approve spending your tuition and tax dollars on wasteful projects.
- Bring more classes to rural communities. While everyone who lives in the COCC District qualifies for in-district tuition, the cost of attendance for someone commuting from Gilchrist or Fort Rock are substantially higher than for a young person living at home in Bend. This is equality without equity. For decades, COCC has broken its promise to bring college classes to the rural communities of its southernmost district, and it’s time to follow through. This doesn’t require expensive new buildings, but it does require building partnerships with school districts, parks districts, and libraries. We can look to Klamath Community College’s arrangements with North Lake School District and Lakeview Hospital as examples to follow.
- Expand online, evening, and weekend classes. With enrollment down, the college is now spending money on local advertising to remind people how much more they can make with a college degree. But how can people afford college if they have to quit the job they already have? When I was taking my prerequisite courses for the nursing program, I took most of them online through Portland Community College and Clackamas Community College, paying out-of-district tuition because COCC didn’t offer classes that fit my schedule as a working parent. Klamath Community College offers five degrees students can earn entirely online, while COCC offers none. In a district that spans from Warm Springs to Christmas Valley, this is inexcusable.
- Provide safe, reliable, and affordable childcare. Too many working parents postpone plans to pursue new degrees and higher paying careers because they cannot afford the cost of childcare if they are not working. I know, because I put off my own application to nursing school until my daughter entered kindergarten. Other community colleges throughout Oregon have addressed this issue by providing reliable daycare and preschool service at affordable rates to students and staff, while also giving their early education students valuable work experience. COCC can do this without raising taxes on residents by offering favorable lease terms to an area childcare provider in exchange for priority placement and lower care rates, just as Deschutes County does for its employees. COCC cannot continue waiting for politicians at city hall or the state legislature to fix Central Oregon’s childcare desert.
- Improve campus safety. As a paramedic, I depend on law enforcement officers to protect me on dangerous scenes. COCC continues to rely on an expensive unarmed security force even as it spends money on lawyers fighting a multi-million dollar lawsuit over the death of Kaylee Sawyer. The college should instead work with local law enforcement agencies to create a true culture of safety for our students and faculty. Not only is this the right thing to do, it will also save us money.