Central Oregon Community College’s second-largest campus will likely add a fifth building with the approval by the Oregon Legislature of funding for a new general-purpose classroom building at the college’s Redmond branch.
House Bill 5005, which will provide more than $1.2 billion in capital construction bond projects across the state, earmarked $8.1 million for COCC’s Redmond expansion.
Matt McCoy, COCC’s vice president of administration, said the new building will add more science labs, among other classrooms, to the Redmond campus.
McCoy said more course offerings will likely result in higher enrollment at the Redmond campus, which will provide the community college with motivation to expand food service and its library in Redmond, along with counseling and advising services. Right now, COCC’s Redmond campus only offers a small selection of pre-prepared food, a small library and limited hours of counseling and advising.
“When you have more classes, you look at providing more services that students need,” McCoy said.
Adding classes in Redmond will also attract students from Prineville, Madras and other parts of Central Oregon.
“There’s a benefit to the overall Central Oregon region to have more services available in a more centralized location,” McCoy said. “As we see Highway 97 get more and more crowded, it makes sense to have services available both at the campuses and online.”
In the 2017-18 school year, COCC’s Redmond campus had 2,466 students enroll in at least one class, with about 420 full-time students. The Bend campus had 9,653 students, about 3,280 of them full time. The number of full-time students has fallen at both campuses over the past few years, as community college enrollment typically drops in a strong economy, but Redmond’s campus has seen two straight years of rising enrollment for noncredit classes, which do not earn credit towards a degree.
The first building on COCC’s Redmond campus was built in 1997, with two more added near the turn of the millennium. A tech center opened in September 2014. Because of a solar array just north of the four buildings, McCoy said a fifth Redmond building, which will likely be about 30,000 square feet, would likely be located west of and adjacent to the campus.
On June 26, the bill passed the state House of Representatives on a landslide 54-2 vote, with Reps. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, and Jack Zika, R-Redmond, voting yes. The bill was passed 27-0 by the Senate in the whirlwind of bills it oversaw Sunday.
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, whose district includes Redmond, said he voted yes because expanding COCC’s Redmond campus would not only provide more educational opportunities for that region of Central Oregon, but it would also give Redmond’s economy a boost.
“It’s obviously going to help expand the economic activity here in Central Oregon,” he said. “That’s why I’ve been such a big supporter of community college in the Bend and Redmond areas.”
Zika said he was “super excited” for the expansion, as it will complement Redmond’s population boom — according to a U.S. Census estimate, the city has grown by about 4,700 people since 2010. The Legislature also passed a bill that will allow Redmond to develop 40 acres with 485 housing units on the east side of town, just a mile north of COCC’s campus.
“Our population is growing so fast that we need that education component in our community,” Zika said
McCoy said the Legislature’s $8.1 million contribution won’t be enough to build the Redmond expansion, which will likely cost more than $20 million due to rising construction costs. He said COCC staff is looking for funding sources to secure the rest of the money, such as asking for large donations, issuing a bond to voters or taking money from the college’s general fund.
COCC staff might begin a design for the new building to entice donations or convince voters to approve a bond, McCoy said.
“You know how they say a picture is worth a thousand words?” he said. “When you have a visual concept, there can be greater understanding of the benefits of a project like this.”
McCoy did not know when construction would begin on a building but said groundbreaking would start once COCC has secured the proper funding.
Gov. Kate Brown has 30 days to sign the bill.
“(Brown’s) been a big supporter of it,” Knopp said. “I think it’s one of those things she’ll embrace and make sure it’s part of the final bill.”
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