Portland Community College announced to faculty and staff last week that it’s closing its computer applications and web technologies program. The number of jobs affected – and the impact of the change on students – is not clear.
The school has promised to “teach out” the program so that students involved in its major and certificate programs – applied science in website development and design, computer software fundamentals and business office assistants – are able to complete their coursework.
According to Katy Ho, PCC’s vice president of academic affairs, it’s difficult to determine exactly how long the CAWT program has been around, because it’s shifted in its curricular focus over the year. But she estimates it’s been offered in different iterations for about 25 years.
School officials cite declining enrollment as a major reason for the change, with a 12 percent drop in full-time enrollment in CAWT programs from 2016 to 2018. They also say the school needs to find a “more holistic” way to teach computer skills to students, but aren’t yet sure precisely what that will look like.
“One of the things that we know in the decision to close the program is to make sure that we are thinking very holistically and broadly about teaching computer applications,” Ho told The Skanner.
The way forward will be guided by a couple of concerns, Ho said. One is industry needs: school officials plan to meet with industry leaders to find out what technological skills they’re seeking in new hires which may be more current and more useful than a certificate in website design. The school does offer associate’s degrees and certificates in computer information systems and network administration, and offers computer science classes but no degree or certificate in computer science.
The second concern is student onboarding – the process of making sure new students have appropriate skills and advising to succeed -- and how computer skills fit into that.
“The decision to close this program comes with a strong recognition that the college needs to address future support and programming in computer literacy, which includes specific software expertise,” said an email sent to PCC faculty and staff and obtained by The Skanner.
The email mentions a college initiative called Yes to Equitable Student Success – YESS – which is designed to improves student graduation and retention rates, and help new students better navigate college life.
“We’re going to interview specific staff, students, stakeholders around the college. We’re making sure the student onboarding process is being improved,” Ho said.
Ho said because so many specifics are up in the air, she did not yet know how many faculty jobs would be affected or what the fiscal impact of the program’s closure would be.
Earlier this month, PCC President Mark Mitsui and others rallied on the capitol for better education funding at both the K-12 and collegiate level, with PCC officials saying last year the school deficit spent $10 million to compensate for state budget cuts and are concerned about similar shortfalls in the near future.
Searching “computer applications” on the staff directory on PCC’s website yields 45 faculty names, 36 of whom are listed as part-time instructors.