GRESHAM, Ore. (KOIN) — Concerned students and staff of Mt. Hood Community College filled a district board of education meeting Wednesday night after news broke on Monday that the college plans to cut several programs.
The conference room was packed, and more protesters waited outside during the meeting—roughly 100 people showed up to make their voices heard. Program cuts weren’t on the official agenda for the board meeting, but a public comment period heard emotional testimony from members of the Mt. Hood community who asked the board to keep some of the programs designated to be phased out.
Faculty and staff said they looked at wages, enrollment data, and the number of degrees to determine which programs they would maintain, grow, modify or phase out. Ultimately, 7 were chosen to be phased out: automotive maintenance and light repair, broadcasting, business technology, cosmetology, environmental health and safety, practical nursing and wilderness leadership and experiential education.
Student Lacey Lorber said that cutting the Licensed Practical Nursing Program would be a mistake.
“Many of us will bridge on to finish our RN, but now we can start working, making a living wage while we are continuing our education,” said Lorber to the board.
Critics of the cuts weren’t just students. State officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the Department of Environmental Quality sent a letter to the board urging members to keep the environmental health and safety program.
It read, in part:
“Seven graduates of the program work at Oregon OSHA, some of whom have worked for Oregon OSHA for many years and others of whom are relatively recent graduates. Of those 7, all have reached senior status within the organization.”
“Oregon DEQ hazardous waste inspectors find that businesses who employ program graduates are managing hazardous wastes in ways that are protective of people and the environment.”
One graduate of the environmental health and safety program attended the meeting in-person to share her story.
“I got a job 3 months after I ended the program,” said Peche Barteaux. She said ending the program would negatively impact the community. “It’s about safety, it’s about getting people home in the same condition they showed up for work.”
Many people who spoke Wednesday night said the wage data faculty was basing their decisions off of was wrong. The report said that cosmetology students only make $12 an hour. Graduates disputed this figure, saying that they make far more than that, especially if they factor in tips and are self-employed.
The board is expected to vote on final program cuts in December.
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