Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Portland Community College: What a racket!

It's all about the money

My wife, Maty, is an immigrant from Burkina Faso. She is currently working as a nursing assistant and studying to obtain certification from the Oregon State Board of Nursing. The course required for certification is challenging: there is a lot of study of anatomy and medical terminology and procedure. It is doubly hard for Maty, since she must study in English which is not her first (or even second or third) language. Maty speaks four languages.

Maty, like most immigrants is not afraid of hard work and she is a very determined woman. So, despite the daunting challenges involved, last summer she enrolled in a Certified Nursing Assistant course at Portland Community College (PCC). The classes are always full, and one has to enroll right away to be sure to have a seat.

Well, let no one say that the sharks at PCC don't know how to leverage a legitimate community need to squeeze money out of the local populace that they supposedly serve.

The classes are so crowded that there is no individual instruction. There are lectures. Period. Students are constantly reminded that they are lucky to have been included in the class and the instructors pedagogical techniques are heavy-handed, to say the least. While she was enrolled in the class, Maty was informed that missing a class, regardless of the reason, would require that she attend a make-up session at a cost of $79. This, of course, was in addition to the $650 tuition fee. As a result, Maty attended one session while she was suffering a fever and severe headache. I took her to the doctor immediately after class, where she was diagnosed with streptococcal pharyngitis (strep throat). She suffered through a day long class session because she felt we couldn't afford the 79 bucks for the make-up class!

After two weeks of classes, the instructors administered a preliminary competence exam. Maty had been studying diligently and doing her very best. But she did not score high enough on the test and was expelled from the class. It was a terrible emotional blow to her.

Well, just to add insult to injury, we are now receiving threatening letters from PCC, demanding that we pay the $650 tuition. Got that? They want us to pay for a class from which they expelled my wife! I called to talk to them, because I do feel that we should pay for the first couple weeks of the class. It is reasonable. But I'll be damned if we're going to pay full price for an inferior class, with inferior instructors that could not be bothered to help their students succeed.

As proof that Maty, given halfway decent instruction, could succeed, she has since passed a certification course at another institution, which provided the instruction for free on condition that she work there for 6 months.

Earlier this month, I cast what I believed to be a principled vote in favor of Measure 26-95 which will issue bonds to expand and update PCC's "educational facilities." Now I feel like a sucker.

Well, dear reader, here's my take: Don't suffer under the illusion that Portland Community College exists to serve the community. Like any other parasitic entity, it is interested in sustaining itself, growing, leeching off its host.

What a racket!

7 comments:

Shus li said...

This is wrong on so many levels.

But first, congratulations to Maty for her accomplishment, and to you for marrying such a strong woman.

The ratios of CNA's to patients has been reduced in 2008 from 1:10 to 1:8. In January of 2009, the ratio goes to 1:7. You can see how this has created a shortage of CNA's. This, I think, is why we now see so many nursing facilities offering the free classes. And, the free class, it seems, offers superior education to PCC's class.

May PCC hear your argument and settle this matter quickly and fairly!

Anonymous said...

Since the Reagan years, public academic institutions have seen their financial resources steadily dwindle. There are two options available to them to make up for the lost funding: "partnership" with the private sector or an increase in tuition/fees. The effects have been to enrich departments geared toward business(e.g. business, engineering, pharmacy) over the more academically-focused (e.g. literature, art, socialogy, pure science) in the first case, and increased class size in the second.

In addition to charging more for classes, the institutions also place great emphasis on cutting costs. Why pay a full-time professor to teach a course when a part-time instructor will do just as well?

I'm surprised that they are allowed to expel students from the class. You pay your tuition, you're entitled to the instruction. Whether you pass or fail is irrelevant.

Ridwan said...

I am horrified to read this post brother. In my many years in academia (a big part of it Oregon)I have never come across a course where an instructor could expel a student for reasons other than disrupting the course.

Even then, faculty would have to involve various players in the college/university and the decision could be appealed.

You have a strong case to argue that Maty was treated unfairly and against the "spirit" of a community institution.

PCC will have to prove that expelling students for grades is an option that faculty can use.

I do not expect that it is so.

If PCC stands by this nonsense then they have to prove that the condition is a college wide option.

Moreover, since PCC is a state funded institution they will have to prove that such an option is in keeping with rules and regulations as set by the Oregon Board of Higher Education.

Fight these asses Dade, and if they prove resistant go to the media and expose their grubby asses.

Please convey my congratulations to Maty for excelling anyway!

Peace and struggle,
Ridwan

sponge888 said...

Yikes! Sorry to hear about the bad experience. Glad to hear that she's been successful elsewhere. She's such a sweetie.

PapaK said...

So sorry to hear about Maty's experience at PCC. In thinking about what you've written, I began to wonder if PCC is really an ideal, or even acceptable, place for a CNA program. In many ways, such a programs seems to differ from the school's main education focus.

In my experience, PCC did a very good job providing a wonderful classroom experience, with responsive and respectful educators. However, those classes were aimed at programs that took two to four years to complete. That may be where PCC does well. It may struggle to provide quality short-term programs.

At the end of the day, however, I think we should all remember that PCC is a large organization. Parts of it are going to fail at times. I don't think that makes it a wholly unworthy organization, however.

At any rate, there is certainly no excuse for any institution to put a student and a family through such an ordeal. An apology and a rescinded bill should be directed to Maty and yourself.

Cheers!

Shus li said...

This is wrong on so many levels.

But first, congratulations to Maty for her accomplishment, and to you for marrying such a strong woman.

The ratios of CNA's to patients has been reduced in 2008 from 1:10 to 1:8. In January of 2009, the ratio goes to 1:7. You can see how this has created a shortage of CNA's. This, I think, is why we now see so many nursing facilities offering the free classes. And, the free class, it seems, offers superior education to PCC's class.

May PCC hear your argument and settle this matter quickly and fairly!

Anonymous said...

Since the Reagan years, public academic institutions have seen their financial resources steadily dwindle. There are two options available to them to make up for the lost funding: "partnership" with the private sector or an increase in tuition/fees. The effects have been to enrich departments geared toward business(e.g. business, engineering, pharmacy) over the more academically-focused (e.g. literature, art, socialogy, pure science) in the first case, and increased class size in the second.

In addition to charging more for classes, the institutions also place great emphasis on cutting costs. Why pay a full-time professor to teach a course when a part-time instructor will do just as well?

I'm surprised that they are allowed to expel students from the class. You pay your tuition, you're entitled to the instruction. Whether you pass or fail is irrelevant.