Smallest community college expands

2009-09-10-019-cmykBig changes are in the works for Oregon’s smallest community college.

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Higher education in Tillamook is getting a $12 million boost.

Big changes are in the works for Oregon’s smallest community college. With its new $12 million campus nearly complete, Tillamook Bay Community College is expanding, modernizing and moving to gain independent accreditation.

The timing couldn’t be better. College president Jon Carnahan says enrollment is up 15% over last year. For the first time in its 28 years of existence the college will have a space of its own, designed for education. That will be a big improvement from its current home at a former mortuary where biology classes are held in what was once the embalming room.

The new campus will house Tillamook County’s economic development department, which will collaborate with the college’s small business center to support budding entrepreneurs. Other ramped-up programs include culinary arts and hospitality, firefighting and public safety, agriculture, and industrial maintenance technology. The Tillamook County Creamery cooperative is helping with the expanded ag program, while timber giants Stimpson Lumber and Hampton Affiliates are involved with the industrial maintenance program. Plans are also being made for satellite facilities north and south of the central campus, wired to enable distance learning for students unable to commute to town.

Tillamook Bay, which has just 400 full-time students and 2,000 total, operates under a contract with much larger Portland Community College, but Carnahan is taking steps toward independent accreditation, a process that usually takes about five years. “The idea is to get more local control,” he says.

Carnahan is hoping that improved facilities and the prospect of more independence will help him complete his original mission for the college. He came to Tillamook three years ago, after a 30-year career with Linn Benton Community College, to lead the search for a new president. Unable to find the right leader, he has served as interim president for longer than he had planned. He says he intends to resume his search once the move to the new campus is finished this winter.