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Mt. Hood awards first four-year diplomas

First 63 graduates in new program earn bachelor degrees Friday, June 16

Even their robes stood out. When the last 63 graduates walked during the commencement ceremony at Friday's Mt. Hood Community College, they were wearing black instead of red.

That wasn't the only difference between them and their peers, however. These graduates had just earned four-year degrees, and they were the first to do so at this community college.

Like most community colleges, Mt. Hood traditionally has only offered two-year associate's degrees. To get a four-year bachelor's degree, students had to transfer to another college or university.

But a new partnership with Eastern Oregon University means Mt. Hood students can stay at the local campus for four years and earn bachelor's degrees in business administration or elementary education.

Speaker of the House Karen Minnis (R-Wood Village), who pushed a state bill through this year to increase the transferability of credits at state colleges, said the program should save students money and time.

Partnerships between state universities and community colleges streamline the education process, she said.

'Students have easier access to four-year degrees,' Minnis said. And, by not having to transfer and possibly have to take the same class twice when larger universities fail to recognize community college credits, students save money.

Mt. Hood Community College President Dr. Robert Silverman said the partnership helps nontraditional students who are 'place bound.'

'Many of our students are adults who are established here,' Silverman said. 'This allows them to stay on campus, to really have a four-year college experience … without having to drive to Portland.'

Having a partnership with Eastern Oregon University means the university counts the students toward their funding equations and pays for the instructors. Mt. Hood provides classroom space and support services.

The instructors are on-site and students enrolled in the four-year degree programs stay at the Mt. Hood site all four years.

Silverman says the college would like to expand the program, but that current 'facilities limit an expansion.'

The college is going out for a bond measure in November to make facility improvements.

If approved, the bond would pay for a building to house the four-year classes as well as making repairs to the college's existing facilities.

Minnis said the state has a program available to community colleges making capital improvements. If voters approve the $58 million bond, the college could then go out for the state's matching grant program. If the state matched the college's $13 million contribution to the new building dollar for dollar, the public would get $13 million knocked off the total bond measure.

Passing a bond measure would give the college a leg up in the state's grant process.

'They would have a better chance is the community shows a commitment,' Minnis said.

Silverman said having a separate building would help expand the new four-year degree program.

'We would have more (four-year) majors if we had the room,' Silverman said.