Two-thousand thirteen has been a banner year for Columbia Gorge Community College. Most significantly, the culmination of over seven years of hard work by faculty and staff has finally paid off with CGCC achieving independent accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
We’re also recognizing the increased importance of Student Services in student academic success — such as admissions, advising, tutoring and multicultural awareness. And going forward, we’ll be looking to increase our presence at the still-new Hood River-Indian Creek campus.
Among many advantages, independent accreditation enables us to develop our own programs, administer our own financial aid, provide services to area veterans, and take advantage of more opportunities in the Columbia River Gorge directly — without having to go through Portland Community College. While our relationship with PCC was and is very positive, it’s now time for CGCC to be on its own.
The accreditation process has also made us more effective and efficient. We’ve taken significant steps to increase the rate of student success by increasing emphasis on student services, which is even more important in a community college than at a four-year institution. For example, we’ve created learning communities that link students in Reading 90 and Writing 115 together as a cohort, giving them extra support to be successful.
And many students couldn’t even consider attending college without the work done by staff in the financial aid office. We so recognize the increased importance of student services in academic success that one manager now administers both functions, as is done at seven other Oregon community colleges.
Classroom instruction is being aided and augmented through nearly 20 programs and initiatives focused on student success. Most of these initiatives concern student retention and degree completion, while others aid in transferring to four-year institutions, or shorten the time from college entry to graduation (saving students time and dollars). And in a state environment where every college is raising tuition, CGCC held the line this year with the same tuition rate as last year.
When Hood River joined the college district in 2001, a post-secondary education presence was brought to Hood River county. The new health and sciences building in The Dalles and the new Hood River-Indian Creek campus are just two examples of this growing partnership.
The next few years will be focused on growing our presence in Hood River even more, with the possibility of constructing an Advanced Technology Center that will support our Regional Center of Innovation initiative. The Regional Center of Innovation is about creating a seamless education pathway from pre-kindergarten through the post-baccalaureate degree level that will support our region’s technology and manufacturing industry.
These are just a few highlights of the extraordinary 2013 we’ve enjoyed at Columbia Gorge Community College. Other achievements include the record amount of scholarships awarded by the CGCC Foundation, and the new Gorge Scholars program — which provides two years of free tuition at CGCC for local high school graduates with a 3.5 grade point average or above.
Columbia Gorge Community College is building dreams and transforming the lives of not just students — it’s enriching the lives of all of us in the Gorge.
Dave Fenwick is speaking on behalf of the Board of Education of Columbia Gorge Community College.