Rogue Community College officials say their decision to move the school's nursing program to Jackson County in 2020 will benefit students the most, even as some Josephine County residents say the move signifies disinvestment in the Redwood campus.
RCC's Board of Education at its Feb. 27 meeting voted 4-3 to move the associate degree nursing program from Grants Pass to a new allied health building to be built at the school's Table Rock campus in White City. The decision came after around three months of deliberating and taking community input, as the nursing program is one of the school's more competitive tracks.
RCC President Cathy Kemper-Pelle said the decision will lead to "a regional training center that’s state of the art and allows us to integrate learning between the different programs.
"That is a huge benefit to students that really prepares them for the real workplace," she said.
The board and RCC's administrators have dealt with an unusual consideration in the decision to move the nursing program: the terms of the bond measure that was passed in 2016. The bond made a combined $9.5 million available to the Jackson County campus for a new health professions building — whose total funding increased to $21 million after an $8 million fund match from the state Legislature, a $2.3 million increased valuation in the bond and additional fundraising from the RCC Foundation.
The bond designated only $1 million to the Redwood campus in Grants Pass for improvements to its nursing building.
When the bond was passed, moving the associated degree nursing to be in the same building with the other health professions was not part of the discussion. Kemper-Pelle told attendees at a February public forum on the Redwood campus that the board members' and administrators' interest in co-locating the two programs sprang from their tours of other community colleges' health professions buildings.
During those trips, they learned that comparable community colleges in Oregon housed nursing with other allied health programs — all other healthcare tracks besides nursing, physician care and dentistry. Adding impetus to the program's move to Jackson County was the fact that some facilities planned for the allied health building — such as a simulation lab — would also be useful for nursing students and would be too expensive to duplicate.
Nursing faculty who attended the public forums had mixed feelings about the move.
"If we get moved, there will be some difficulties," said department head Linda Wagner. "Because if we're co-locating and sharing classrooms, skills lab, etc., that's going to be a scheduling nightmare."
Kathy Meyer, adjunct nursing faculty, talked about the new possibilities available.
"Being (at Table Rock) we can share equipment such as the $11,000 bladder scanner simulator," she said. "We can share all equipment between programs."
Some faculty and community members at both Josephine County forums said they feared moving the nursing program would communicate to Josephine County voters that RCC is more interested in growing in Jackson County.
"There's a general perception out there that programs are moving to Jackson County," said former RCC math professor Charlotte Hutt.
Chris Pierce, a Grants Pass business owner and former welding student, called the idea "frustrating."
Meanwhile, others said it made sense to move to Table Rock, not only because of the disparity in available funds for the Redwood campus, but also because 66 to 75 percent of nursing students in the past three years were from Jackson County. The 2016 bond measure was overwhelmingly supported by Jackson County voters but drew a majority of no votes in Josephine County.
Students would still be able to take nursing prerequisites at any campus, as they currently can. Similarly, they would still be able to complete practicum work at facilities in both counties.
Kemper-Pelle said the $1 million allocated in the bond for the Redwood nursing building will now be routed to the Redwood science building project, which is set to receive $11 million in combined bonds and state matching funds. Another $2 million will go toward career and technical education space upgrades.
The move will not happen until at least fall of 2020, when the new Table Rock campus health building is scheduled to be completed.
— Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at 541-776-4497 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/ka_tornay.