Columbia Gorge Community College is the recent, enthusiastic, grantee of $2 million in federal funds, aimed at strengthening the college as an institution.
Specifically, the Title III grant funds - $400,000 for each of the next five years - will be used to hire required administrative personnel to achieve independent accreditation status; and purchase equipment and software to support new staff and ongoing student populations.
Students will most immediately benefit from in-classroom technology upgrades purchased under the award.
However, in pursuit of the long-term growth of the college and service capacity increases for students, $1,087,999 of the Title III funds for this project will be expended on personnel.
The college's grant implementation plan and budget anticipates adding four new full-time positions, all of which will be institutionalized following the termination of grant funding. One part-time activity director position will also be funded during the grant period.
The four new institutional positions will include a college registrar, an administrative researcher, an online services coordinator and a major and planned gifts officer.
The new position costs will, over the course of the five-year grant, eventually transfer to the CGCC operational budget by incremental increases beginning in year two of the grant.
In addition to personnel, the college will undertake $410,448 of new equipment purchases to develop 13 classroom podium systems and improve other institutional technology resources.
Other new equipment to be purchased are a document imaging system, estimated at $66,436 through lease purchase, which is required for institutional research work along with high-definition video equipment for an additional $9,737.
CGCC will also eventually incur ongoing maintenance, replacement and licensing costs of the purchased equipment following the termination of grant funds.
Another significant component of the federal funding will be used to establish and fortify an endowment program for the college, with contributions of $40,000 per each year of the grant.
The remaining award funds provide for contractual costs, supplies, travel and external evaluation costs.
"This funding has moved CGCC into the realm of high-performing community colleges in the nation," said Dr. Frank Toda, president of the educational institution in a recent interview with The Dalles Chronicle. "We are now ideally positioned to provide 21st century training for 21st century jobs."
Title III funding, also known as Part A Programs - Strengthening Institutions, is awarded by the U.S. Department of Education.
Shortly after submitting its first application in August 2010, the college received news of selection as a grantee. This was a rare event, as most colleges must apply several times before receiving this particularly competitive funding.
This unusually rapid award may be tied to the well-regarded reputation the college has at the national level.
CGCC was recently recognized by U.S. Undersecretary of Education Martha Cantor, at a meeting in Washington, D.C., where the college's renewable energy training program was highlighted for its innovative education model.
The accreditation process, once final, will provide the college with increased freedom to meet local educational and training needs.
And, on a more personal note, students will finally receive a diploma which bears the college's name, instead of the current model which lists Portland Community College as the degree-granting institution.
"Community colleges are the first responders in an economic recovery because we train people to qualify for family-wage jobs close to home," said Toda in the Chronicle. "We are in the business of giving people a future."