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Voters have spoken; now PCC will get to work

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Portland Community College is grateful that voters had enough faith in us to approve our bond measure, especially in such difficult economic times.

What will we do with the region's faith? The short answer is: More work-force training, more classrooms and labs, up-to-date technology in the classrooms, shorter waiting lists for students, more child care for students who are parents and energy-efficient buildings.

Our primary goal at PCC is access to education for everyone who wants in. The PCC Foundation - in conjunction with the James F. and Marion L. Miller Foundation - has redoubled its efforts to raise money for scholarships. Today, any money donated at www.pcc.edu/foundation will be matched by a generous challenge grant from the Miller Foundation.

But all of that is for naught if we don't have enough classrooms and labs for students. Passage of the bond measure is a key element to providing access for all.

Addressing the long waiting lists is another key part of access for all. Every term, thousands of students are unable to get into the classes they need to succeed. Additional classrooms will reduce those long lines.

An estimated 40 percent of our students who are eligible for federal Pell grants also are parents, so providing child-care facilities at all campuses is vital.

Distance learning is one of the fastest-growing segments at PCC. By distance learning, we mean Internet classes - classes offered on our cable channel and DVD-based classes that can be checked out of our libraries.

The reasons these programs are popular are myriad: Students have full-time jobs or multiple jobs. They're parents and often single parents. They want to reduce their driving time. And they want to take the classes they need when it's convenient for their busy lives. Passage of the bond measure will give us the 'bandwidth' to offer even more distance learning.

A week doesn't pass that a business owner doesn't call me and say: 'We need welders. We need teachers. We need nurses.' Business and industry are hampered today by a significant work-force shortage. The bond measure will let us train more students for these vital careers. Careers that pay well enough to buy a home and raise a family. Careers that broaden and strengthen the region's tax base.

In that way, PCC serves as an economic engine that can help drive the region out of its economic doldrums.

We are looking at ways to construct new buildings to meet gold LEED standards and also will update existing buildings to make them more energy efficient. Plus, we are adding 'green construction' classes to help students learn to build the environmentally friendly buildings of today and tomorrow.

It took a combination of PCC, the voters, our partners in business and industry and editorial boards throughout the region to make the bond measure a success. Thanks to that, we will roll up our sleeves and do the things we promised to do as quickly and as economically as possible.

Working together, Portland Community College and the metro region can help dig us out of these tough economic times. Working together, we will provide access for everyone who wants an education, we will create a well-trained work force and we will create answers for this ailing economy. It's a team effort.

Dr. Preston Pulliams has been president of Portland Community College for more than four years. He also serves on the Oregon Board of Higher Education.