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Southern Oregon Higher Education Consortium members meet again this week

Consortium of Southern Oregon colleges and universities work together on student success

(Ashland, Ore.) — Collaboration to benefit the region’s students and economy is continuing this month as the new Southern Oregon Higher Education Consortium holds two separate meetings for academic and enrollment leaders.

The chief academic officers from the four schools – Klamath Community College, Oregon Institute of Technology, Rogue Community College and Southern Oregon University –  will meet for the third time in the past year when they convene for about six hours on Wednesday at SOU. Several of their key staff members will also participate.

The academic group is expected to address topics including how new and existing majors at the four schools can complement each other; programs that lead to stand-alone certificates and alternative credentials for students; 2+2(+2) programs that allow students to incrementally earn associate, bachelor’s and master’s degrees; development of stronger K-12 programs that serve as pipelines to higher education; and personalized learning opportunities.

The meeting will begin at 9:30 a.m. on the third floor of SOU’s Hannon Library, and will continue until about 3:15 p.m. Representatives of media outlets are welcome to report on the day’s discussions.

Enrollment leaders from the four institutions met last Monday, July 8, at the Running Y Ranch near Klamath Falls.

That meeting was the second for the SOHEC institutions’ enrollment and student affairs leadership group. They discussed several topics, including the “Badger to Owl Connection” partnership between KCC and Oregon Tech. The program promotes access, affordability and degree completion by offering tuition waivers for two terms at Oregon Tech to qualifying KCC graduates.

The SOHEC leaders also discussed the potential expansion of a reverse transfer program in which credits earned at SOU or OIT can be transferred back to RCC or KCC. The program enables students who have transferred from community college to the universities before earning their two-year associate degrees to complete them while working toward their four-year bachelor’s degrees.

The consortium’s enrollment group agreed to meet quarterly, with the next meeting tentatively scheduled to take place this fall at SOU.

The consortium – a first-of-its-kind alliance of Oregon colleges and universities – is aimed at streamlining students’ educational pathways and addressing southern Oregon’s specific workforce needs. The member institutions work in partnership to promote and build student success in the region, working as colleagues rather than competitors to improve educational attainment.

The SOHEC partners were recently honored with a “Collaboration Award” at the annual meeting of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. (SOREDI). The award “takes a holistic view of our region and looks for partnerships that cultivate an environment of support” and teamwork, according to SOREDI. It was accepted by RCC President Cathy Kemper-Pelle, KCC President Roberto Gutierrez, Oregon Tech President Nagi Naganathan and SOU Provost and Vice President Sue Walsh, on behalf of President Linda Schott.

SOHEC’s collaborative efforts took root with the four institutions’ presidents following a joint lunch meeting a year and a half ago, and the partnership was announced last November with signing events in both Klamath Falls and Medford.

It is considered a pioneering step toward preparing students and workforce members in the region for a rapidly changing future. The consortium has been endorsed by state officials including the governor and the chair of Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

SOU-President Schott-higher education consortium

Southern Oregon’s four higher ed institutions announce consortium

The presidents of four public colleges and universities in southern Oregon joined forces today to create the Southern Oregon Higher Education Consortium – an alliance aimed at streamlining students’ educational pathways and addressing the region’s specific workforce needs.

A memorandum of understanding signed by the presidents of Klamath Community College, Oregon Institute of Technology, Rogue Community College and Southern Oregon University calls upon the consortium members to “promote innovative outreach and educational activities.” It specifically directs the institutions to share information, collaborate on complementary programming and facilities, and work cooperatively on professional training, technology and programming.

“Enhancement of the student pipeline and improvement of degree-completion metrics will be areas of particular emphasis,” the memorandum said.

The new consortium – first envisioned a year ago by the four presidents during a lunch meeting halfway between the Rogue Valley and Klamath Basin – will be announced during signing events at 10 a.m. today at KCC’s Founders Hall in Klamath Falls, and at 2 p.m. at the RCC/SOU Higher Education Center in Medford.

The four presidents will discuss their interests in the collaboration during the Klamath Falls event, and will participate in a panel discussion at the Medford event. Randy Cox, executive director of the Klamath County Economic Development Agency, will speak at the Klamath Falls gathering. John Tapogna, president and partner of ECONorthwest, will discuss his organization’s recent report, “Oregon Talent Assessment,” as part of the Medford announcement.

The consortium is Oregon’s first regional coalition of colleges and universities. It is viewed as a pioneering step toward preparing southern Oregon’s students and workforce for a rapidly changing future.

“Statewide, we expect that most higher wage jobs openings in the next decade will require postsecondary education or training for job candidates to be competitive,” said Ben Cannon, executive director of Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission. “Innovative local partnerships are absolutely critical to fostering meaningful on-ramps to opportunity and economic mobility. We look forward to working with the coalition on our common goals.”

Cannon commended the four presidents for “strategically joining together as a coalition to advance the specific pathways necessary for their regional communities to thrive.”

The consortium is expected to prompt discussion about what kinds of economic growth are needed in southern Oregon, what industries the institutions should help support or attract, and how higher education can best align to meet those needs.

“Together, our united effort can create pipelines for highly skilled graduates to enter the workforce and will attract new businesses that pay living-wage salaries,” said KCC President Roberto Gutierrez. “Southern Oregon will be stronger than ever before.”

The consortium also provides a unified voice for southern Oregon, and will advocate for the region’s priorities in conversations with state and federal lawmakers. Regional grants and other combined resources are likely outcomes of the partnership.

“What excites me most about this consortium is the ability of all four institutions to work together to build a regional college-going culture that will transform our economy, strengthen families, and inspire others to pursue their dreams,” said RCC President Cathy Kemper-Pelle.

The new consortium will be an exercise in the power and flexibility of partnerships. The institutions – which already have shared academic strengths in areas including business, sustainability and healthcare – are open to exploring cooperative programs in various areas that will best serve their region and state.

“Our students, industry and business partners, and our communities all benefit through our collective voice for southern Oregon – a vibrant consortium of action focused on education, workforce and regional economy,” said Oregon Institute of Technology President Nagi Naganathan.

The four colleges and universities have a long history of working together to meet the needs of students and employers. Together, the institutions enrolled 26,600 students in 2017-18, and conferred a total of 3,370 college or university degrees.

“We have done a very good job of working collaboratively in the past,” said SOU President Linda Schott. “We are poised now to use our history of cooperation as the jumping-off point for a future of seamless pathways, interwoven academics and collective strength.”