The state's two-year institutions are also essential to workforce development. Community colleges need to adjust quickly as student and workforce needs change. In the current economic climate, Oregon community colleges are seeing an increased demand for courses. Enrollment and the course load per student are rising, as many unemployed workers seek re-training opportunities, and others elect to take courses that improve their skills or competitiveness in the labor market. Decisions made by community colleges and students can influence whether a surplus or shortage of trained workers exists.
Colleges start new programs based on perceived need. In some cases, the need stems from growth in a particular industry; in others, new technology is the trigger. The newly-added renewable energy systems and solar voltaic manufacturing technology program options at Portland Community College, along with the sustainability coordinator associate degree at Lane Community College, are examples of training resulting from new technology and emerging demands in the workforce.
When community colleges seek to cut programs, they may look for programs with low enrollment. They may also take funding into consideration, and eliminate programs that are expensive to operate. Or, perhaps a local employer just laid off workers in a particular occupation, leaving plenty of trained individuals in a particular field looking for work. Continuing to offer training at least in the short term may result in an over-supply of workers. Other reasons may exist as well. From July 2008 through May 2009, 10 community colleges deleted or suspended programs offering certificates or associate degrees. The programs were in fields ranging from building maintenance and industrial mechanics technology to surgical technology and emergency management leadership.
As the recession started late in 2007, full-time equivalent enrollment surged. Between the 2007-2008 and 2008-2009 academic years, FTEs rose by 11.6 percent in Oregon. The total unduplicated head count for full- and part-time enrollment only rose by approximately 1,000 students, but the course load per student increased sharply. In the 2007-2008 academic year, it took 4.02 students to equal the coursework of one full-time enrollment. By 2008-2009, only 3.63 students were needed to total one full-time course load. Initial enrollment estimates for the 2009-2010 academic year show even greater increases in the state's community college enrollment.
The remaining 29.4 percent of students seek education in career and technical programs. Here, students generally find job-ready training. These programs generally offer a certificate of completion or associate of applied science degree for graduates. Students completing career and technical programs qualify for jobs in their field upon graduation, and some actually start work in their field before they finish school.
Liberal arts program completers dominated the top 10 list for graduates in 2008-2009 (Table 1). Most of these students are finishing general core classes and continuing on to four-year institutions where they focus on more specific career fields. Health program completers followed liberal arts. Unlike liberal arts graduates, those finishing health-related programs receive specific training for occupations. For example, someone completing a dental hygienist program has skills tailored to that occupation. The Oregon Employment Department's occupational projections show health occupations are among the fastest growing in the state.
|Liberal Arts and Health Programs Most Common Among Oregon Community College Program Completers|
|Top 10 Associate Degree Programs||2008-2009 Completers|
|Liberal Arts and Sciences, General Studies and Humanities||4,025|
|Health Professions And Related Clinical Sciences||1,135|
|Business, Management, Marketing, and Related||452|
|Security and Protective Services||220|
|Engineering Technologies and Technicians||210|
|Mechanic and Repair Technologies and Technicians||161|
|Computer and Information Sciences and Support Services||127|
|Visual and Performing Arts||86|
|Personal and Culinary Services||82|
|Family and Consumer Sciences/Human Sciences||79|
|Source: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System|
More than 560,000 Oregon jobs in 2008 required at least some postsecondary training as a minimum qualification (Table 2). More than 65,000 required an associate degree in 2008. Between 2008 and 2018, more than 25,000 job openings will require an associate degree. About twice as many will require postsecondary training, which includes certificates from community colleges or private career school training.
Job openings that require an associate degree or postsecondary training as a minimum requirement tend to pay more than those with a minimum of a high school degree. In 2008, 72 percent (47,473 jobs) requiring a minimum of an associate degree paid more than $50,000 annually. Only 8 percent (90,959 jobs) of Oregon employment in occupations that required no postsecondary education hit this high-wage mark.
|Almost Half of Oregon's Total Job Openings Will Require Education Beyond High School|
|Related work experience||151,678||163,607||12,038||31,581||43,619|
|Long-term on-the-job training||110,837||115,187||4,996||21,757||26,753|
|Moderate-term on-the-job training||264,052||282,929||20,875||58,560||79,435|
|Short-term on-the-job training||643,991||710,503||66,973||186,961||253,934|
Oregon's two-year institutions balance these varying demands in an environment where their services are increasingly demanded. More people are attending community colleges to enhance their skills and adapt to workforce changes in the wake of the 2007 recession. As the cost of higher education continues to rise, more students also complete lower division coursework at two-year institutions as a cost-effective way to gain credits toward a bachelor's degree.
Many students who complete some postsecondary training or an associate degree can expand their employment opportunities in Oregon. Between 2008 and 2018, the Employment Department projects that almost half of all job openings will require some postsecondary education or training beyond high school.