Op-Ed Commentary by, E. Werner Reschke, Oregon State Representative House District 56
Klamath Community College was founded in 1996 by forward thinking individuals. KCC is one of a network of 17 community colleges in Oregon. (Visit KCC’s Founders Hall to learn more about these men and women). The community college model and purpose differs from a traditional four-year university, which selects individuals who meet their criteria to attend. Community colleges in Oregon accept anyone who wishes to increase their skills training in any particular area offered by the community college. Our local community benefits from this unique and personal model of skills training.
The funding for capital expenditures between these two types of higher education also differs. With public universities, the state issues a bond for the full amount of construction. With community colleges, the state issues a matching grant for 50 percent of the cost of construction. In order to receive the grant money, local communities must raise the matching 50 percent. This matching program works well for community colleges located in wealthy and populous areas of the state, such as Portland or Eugene. These communities can easily pass a local matching bond measure. However in smaller communities, these bond measures often fail, which stops funding from the state to the local community for construction of a new building to enable new programs.
In September 2018, Klamath Community College was awarded an $8 million matching grant from the State of Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission to fund the construction of an Apprenticeship and Industrial Trades Center and Fire Training Academy. This is a great opportunity for our local college. The center is a foundational step in creating a workforce pipeline that starts in high school, continues at KCC, and transitions students into high-demand skilled trade careers. The lack of trades professionals is stifling growth in Klamath Falls and across the nation. Through this new center, KCC can train a workforce to provide local services that are currently being contracted to out-of-area companies. The center will be a multi-purpose facility that provides hands-on industrial trade job training for graduates in higher-paying jobs.
In order to quality for this $8 million matching grant, KCC must raise $4 million. This can be done two ways: by taxpayers voting on a local matching bond measure on the 2020 ballot, or by seeking local community contributions.
Rather than taxing people to contribute through a bond measure, I believe the better approach is to seek voluntary local community donations. With Klamath County’s work-heritage in agriculture and timber, the Apprenticeship and Industrial Trades Center is a perfect fit for the hard working, skills-based Klamath community. I encourage local businesses and individuals to look forward, and to take pride in our community, just like those who founded the community college, and generously give toward the $4 million needed to receive the state grant match. Every dollar counts.
To donate, make a check payable to the KCC Foundation and mail it to the KCC Foundation at 7390 South 6th St., Klamath Falls, OR 97603.
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