COLLEGE PARTNERSHIP IN JEOPARDY

March 22, 2001 11:00 pm

By Dick Mason

Observer Staff Writer

Combative sparks do not fly when Eastern Oregon University President Phil Creighton and the presidents of Blue Mountain and Treasure Valley community colleges get together.

BMCC President Nicki Harrington, TVCC President Bert Glandon and Creighton enjoy an easy, good-natured rapport.

The friendship the presidents share though is not enough to keep their schools connected.

EOU, BMCC and TVCC are closely linked by something in danger of perishing the Eastern Oregon Collaborative Colleges Center unless the Oregon Legislature infuses it with money.

EOCCC is a three-way educational partnership that enables students at BMCC in Pendleton and TVCC in Ontario to earn degrees from Eastern without leaving their campuses. The partnership also allows students in La Grande to benefit from programs at the outlying schools.

Funding for the EOCCC might be eliminated by the Legislature. No money for the center is included in Gov. John Kitzhabers proposed 2001-03 budget.

Creighton, Harrington and Glandon are campaigning to get funding restored.

About $2.5 million is needed for the coming biennium to maintain the center.

Glandon and Harrington joined Creighton in La Grande Thursday to build support for the EOCCC. They had just returned from a trip to Salem on Wednesday where they met with legislators to discuss the center. The three were encouraged by the response they received. Creighton said the EOCCC can be saved, but that time is running out.

It is not the 11th hour, but this is a critical time, the Eastern president said.

Creighton, Glandon and Harrington are trying to convince legislators that supporting the center is a wise economic

investment.

Harrington noted that Eastern Oregon needs people like teachers and other professionals who can receive their training through the center. Eastern Oregon communities will be hard-pressed to fill these needs with skilled people unless degree programs are readily accessible through programs such as the EOCCC.

The center, started by the Legislature in 1997, has more than 800 students participating in its programs through the three-college partnership. Harrington said that many of these students would not be in school now if it were not for the EOCCC. She said that the center has made it much more convenient for people to get an

education.

It is truly a miraculous happening; territory does not become an issue, Harrington said.

Harrington, Glandon and Creighton all believe that the EOCCC is one of the significant reasons why their schools have been experiencing enrollment growth.

Glandon, for example, said he knows of many students at Treasure Valley Community College who are there because of its link to EOU. TVCCs full-time equivalent student enrollment is now 2,400, up from 1,000 in 1993.

Blue Mountain Community College has abut 2,800 full-time equivalent students, up from 2,000 in 1997.

Eastern has led the states universities in percentage of enrollment growth each of the past two years. Last fall Easterns enrollment was up 6.63

percent.

Through the EOCCC, students can now earn a number of degrees. Degrees are offered in business economics; business administration; computer science/multi media; elementary and secondary education; liberal studies; philosophy, politics, economics; and agricultural science.

Several associate degree programs are also offered through the center including one for office administration.

Students at BMCC and TVCC can take most of their lower division classes needed for these degrees on their campuses.

Upper division classes are taken from Eastern. In many cases students at BMCC and TVCC can take the courses on their campuses from Eastern professors who teach there.

Pendleton and Ontario students can also take Eastern Oregon University classes via means like computer conferencing and interactive television.

Students taking classes via the EOCCC have access to financial aid, admission and business services, electronic data bases and more through the three schools. This makes it much easier for students to do things like apply for financial aid.

For example, students in a program requiring them to take classes from EOU and BMCC need to fill out just one financial aid form, not one for each school.

This has saved a lot of students a lot of headaches, said EOUs Michael Cannon, the director of the EOCCC.

The difficulty in making BMCC, TVCC

and EOU programs available to students in a seamless manner cannot be underrated.

Blending them all is a huge bureaucratic challenge, Glandon said.