Oregon Governor, John Kitzhaber, was the guest speaker at Lane Community College’s 50th anniversary celebration on Wednesday, Oct. 15. During an interview with The Torch the governor said that he attended South Eugene High School and graduated in 1965. However, he did not attend Lane, instead he headed to Dartmouth College in New Hampshire.
Kitzhaber said he remembers the initial conversations about creating the community college during his junior year of high school. “While I didn’t go here, I know an awful lot of people who got their start here,” Kitzhaber said.
He pointed to his older sister, Ann Kemmy, who was seated in the room, to evidence his close personal attachment to the college. Kemmy has taught writing in the English department at Lane for 25 years.
“It’s absolutely essential,” Kitzhaber said referring to the 40-40-20 plan. “The middle 40 does come out of community colleges, and a lot of people that go on to baccalaureate degrees start out at community colleges.”
The Governor’s plan states that 100 percent of Oregon adults will have high school degrees, 40 percent of those will have associate’s degrees and 40 percent will have bachelor’s degrees or higher.
“Community colleges are the pivotal element of 40/40/20,” Kitzhaber said.
The governor commented briefly on LCC’s student loan default rate, which reached a level last year that almost caused the federal government to suspend federal loans all together for LCC students.
“It’s a very serious issue, and it’s obviously not just an Oregon issue,” he said. “It speaks to the fact that because public funding for colleges and universities has gone down, increasingly your operational budget is based on student debt.”
The governor believes that default rates will receive a great deal of attention in the upcoming legislative session. The new Higher Education Coordinating Commission is charged with affordability and access,“They are taking it very seriously,” Kitzhaber said. “Hopefully we’ll have some recommendations coming out of the next session that will begin to address this issue.”
The governor commented that students are lucky to have Lane Community College.
“This is a great community source,” he said. “I really do believe that community colleges offer more people of more diverse backgrounds a shot at the American dream than any part of our educational system.”