The Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC) is continuing on its journey to provide students with high-quality education by expanding its campus in The Dalles to include a state-of-the-art Skills Center and on-campus housing for approximately 80 students.

Construction for both buildings is scheduled to begin in 2020.

The “Treaty Oak Regional Skills Center,” which is a provisional name for the upcoming addition, would be designed to adapt over time to the needs of the college’s major academic programs. The center is set to open  by autumn of 2022.

“The biggest thing about the skill center is flexibility,” said Dan Spatz, executive director for Institutional Advancement at CGCC. “We want career tech training space that will evolve through time.”

The skills center and housing development project obtained the necessary funding, $14.7 million in total, through an amendment of the Oregon Constitution called Article XI-G, which deals with community college capital construction. The state legislature offered $7.3 million to the college under the condition that they match the funds towards their project; the college was able to do so through an Intergovernmental Agreement (IGA) with the City of The Dalles and Wasco County and their own funding.

“The next step in this process is the architectural and engineering phase,” said Spatz. “We’re going to send that out to the world—we’re going to look for creative solutions. It’s a unique project with several elements coming together, and we want to take advantage of that.”

Initially, the housing development was not going to be included as benefiting from the state funding, as it legally wasn’t considered an appropriate use. That changed in 2017 when the college was told by the Oregon Department of Justice that they were approved for use of state funding towards their housing project. This was a crucial decision for the college, as their student body has historically struggled with commuting to campus.

“Being able to do this is a game changer,” said Spatz. “A survey last year showed us that about 10 percent of respondents were living in their cars or in shelters while attending CCGC. Housing is an incredible barrier in the Gorge, as many know, so to be able to provide shelter for the students and better serve our region is a great thing for us.”

The housing project would consist largely of quad dormitories, along with a handful of studio-style apartments. One additional benefit being explored is offering the space to public workers (such as firefighters) and summer camps outside of the academic year.

CCGC is also conducting a standard five year review of its computer science program, which was first offered by the college in 2014. At the time, the college saw the growing tech economy in the gorge and sought to keep their students up-to-date with industry requirements. Despite their initiative, enrollment in the computer science program has not met expectations.

“I think the program hasn’t gotten the attraction that we though it would,” said Stephen Shwiff, Dean of General Education at CCGC. “It seems that during the second year of the program, enrollment in computer science tapers off, and so we want to evaluate what it is we need to do better.”

As part of that evaluation, the college is seeking input from tech industry corporations and the public about how they can better serve the needs of the industry and their students. College President Dr. Marta Cronin emphasized in a media release that the computer science program would continue to be offered, and, even tually, be guided by the improvements identified through this review process. The college is also reviewing the applicability of their courses to four-year colleges.

“One thing we want to make sure of is that our courses transfer,” said Shwiff. “I feel that may be lacking currently in our computer science program.”

An overview of the computer science program as it currently stands is available in the CGCC catalog, located on their website: cgcc.edu/catalog. The deadline for comments is March 30. Any changes made to the program would not take place until the Fall of 2020.

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