Portland Community College
For students who are only just learning about college, it is important to understand the different programs on offer. Community college, also known as junior college, provides two-year degree programs that generally award an associate’s degree upon completion.
Community colleges are considered a pathway to a four-year college, which awards a bachelor’s degree. As a prospective college student, it is important to know that enrolling in a community college is a great way to start on the path to higher education.
The American Association of Community Colleges reports that more than 12.4 million students are enrolled in 1,167 community colleges across the country. Community colleges provide affordable education. On average, matriculation at a community college costs $2,713 per year, compared to an average of $7,605 at four-year colleges.
Transferring to a four-year college is the main goal of many community college students. Some community college students will transfer with credits, whereas others will be holders of an associate’s degree. A research study from the Community College Research Center at Columbia University’s Teachers College asked if there is a difference in educational outcomes for students who transfer to four-year colleges with credits versus an associate’s degree. Transferring with an associate’s degree improved the odds of completing a bachelor’s degree; associate’s degree holders were 77 percent more likely to graduate with a bachelor’s degree within four years. This research finding supports the notion that students who can complete the rigors of a two-year degree at a community college are likely to successfully earn bachelor’s degrees.
- Sylvania: The largest and oldest campus in the PCC system, it’s located in southwestern Portland between Tigard and Lake Oswego. This campus is home to a state-of-the-art fitness center and swimming pool, a cutting-edge theater, and the “MakerSpace,” a venue where students are invited to embrace imagination and create various arts.
- Cascade: Opened in 1971, and located in revitalized northern Portland, this small but resource-filled campus is home to over 25 percent of the total student body (in 2012-2013, there were 23,502 PCC students enrolled).
- Rock Creek: Located 12 miles west of the downtown area of Portland in the Beaverton-Hillsboro area, this campus offers 260 acres of opportunities for students. Although the campus is in a high-tech area, it is home to a fully functioning farm, complete with llamas, sheep, cows, and rabbits.
- Southeast Campus: The newest campus in the PCC system, it continues to expand and welcome a diverse student body that appreciates access not only to classes but also to local offerings of off-campus communities and businesses.
PCC has made the application process easy for prospective students, all of whom are required to apply online. International students, those who are 16 or 17, and applicants under 16 years of age will need to complete a different application; visit the PCC admissions site for more details. For students who need more information before officially applying, PCC invites admissions seekers to speak with an admissions counselor one on one and/or attend a PCC Preview Day (for high school students). A visit to a PCC campus can provide valuable insights about academics and student life and is strongly encouraged.
PCC offers a full range of more than 100 college-level course offerings. To provide an easy overview of each program, PCC has created a downloadable Possibilities Playbook for prospective and existing students. PCC understands that many students have a goal of receiving a bachelor’s degree and to that end, there is extensive guidance for students about how to transfer.
Although students who have completed credit coursework at PCC can transfer to another school short of attaining an associate’s degree, PCC offers three transfer degrees as well as an Associate of General Studies (AGS) and Associate of Applied Science Degree (AAS). PCC provides an excellent start to getting a bachelor’s degree, although some students successfully place in jobs after earning an associate’s degree.
Cost of Attendance
As PCC is a state school, as opposed to a private one, the cost of tuition depends on residency status as well as the specific number of credit hours. Oregon residents can expect to pay $96 per credit while non-residents will be charged $224 per credit. (Note: PCC permits in-state tuition for residents of Oregon, Washington, California, Idaho, and Nevada.) Most courses are 1-4 credits each.
To determine the actual cost per course, visit the class schedule, which shows the designated number of credits per class. PCC also provides a helpful online calculator for course costs. Prospective students should note that a part-time student takes approximately 6 credits in coursework whereas a full-time student generally enrolls in a total of 12 credits. There is no requirement that each course carry the same number of credits.
Students interested in attending community college in Oregon may have their eye on other schools. In terms of comparative costs, for the 2013-14 academic year, tuition and fees at PCC equaled the median tuition and fees at all of the other Oregon community colleges. For this reason, prospective students of PCC should not be deterred by the cost, as it is not the most expensive option among the state’s community colleges.
Housing for PCC Students
PCC does not offer on-campus housing; however, the college offers online resources to help students locate housing opportunities. There are a variety of housing options available off campus, including:
- Home-Stay Program: Available for foreign students, the program matches students with local host families.
- College Housing Northwest: This non-profit provides housing to college students in seven apartment buildings located in downtown Portland. This option is available to any student who attends a college or university in Portland.
- Apartments and House Shares: There are numerous housing options around each of the four PCC campuses.
- Temporary Housing: Some students, as a temporary measure, live in any one of the numerous hostels or hotels in the Portland area.
Students who need assistance with paying for housing, as part of their financial aid package, are best advised to contact the PCC financial aid office. In general, eligible students can receive financial aid not only to cover the cost of tuition, but also to cover housing and meals as well. As PCC does not provide on-campus housing, prospective students are best advised to learn about the cost of living in the residence type of interest.
According to the Institute for College Access and Success (ICAS), 83 percent of community college students need financial aid. This statistic highlights that even though community college provides a low-cost option for students, many students still require help to pay for their studies. As a general population, ICAS notes that community college students tend to come from lower income backgrounds.
The combination of financial need and enrollment at a community college makes for certain statistical outcomes. According to ICAS, community college students tend to receive the need-based Federal Pell Grant. States also help with funding, as 33 percent of community college students receive state grants. However, college grants (known also as institutional grants) tend to be limited as community colleges most often have more limited resources than four-year colleges. Of community college students with financial need, 19 percent receive an institutional grant. ICAS further reports that 29 percent of these students borrow federal loans, while 8 percent borrow private loans (and most of this group has also borrowed federal loans).
PCC students are eligible to receive federal financial aid. To be considered for a financial aid award, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Federal student aid includes federal loans and grants such as the Federal Pell Grant and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grant (FSEOG). Federal Work-Study may be available in cases of exceptional need; however, most community college students are not provided with this option. It is important to note that work-study funds must be earned, through on-campus employment. This form of financial aid provides helpful “pocket money” to cover some minimal day-to-day costs of living.
The Oregon Office of Student Access and Completion is committed to giving all Oregonians access to higher learning. The office provides information on state forms of financial aid. For instance, Oregon provides information on state scholarships, the ASPIRE program (Access to Student assistance Programs in Reach of Everyone), the Chafee Grant, the Oregon Opportunity Grant, the Childcare Grant, and small funding opportunities. For information on PCC-specific scholarships, it is most advisable to contact the financial aid office directly.
Admitted PCC students who receive an offer for private loans are best advised to borrow responsibly. In general, private loans do not have interest levels or repayment terms as favorable as federal student loans. As a rule of the thumb, the best practice is to exhaust all forms of financial aid – including those ideal ones, like grants, that don’t need to repaid – before borrowing a private loan.
Success Rates at PCC
Beautiful location and affordability aside, prospective students are encouraged to take a critical look at student outcomes at PCC. The college conducts an annual Institutional Effectiveness Reporting to assess its effectiveness along core themes such as transfer rates, grades received, employability of graduates, and graduate success on licensing exams in their field.
According to the 2013-14 report, within three years of matriculation, 34 percent of PCC students complete a degree, earn a certificate, or transfer to another school. An additional 33 percent of students were still attending PCC past the three-year enrollment mark. The report further found that approximately 74 percent of the student body enrolled in the fall semester received a grade of A, B, C, or Pass. Eighty-four percent of career and technical education graduates (of those who do not transfer to four-year colleges) gained full-time employment in the year following graduation and had a median hourly wage of $20.13. Of PCC students who took a national or state licensing or board exam associated with their degree, 92 percent passed. These findings support that PCC graduates appreciate success in their community college work and beyond.