Second year Auto Collision and Refinishing student Tristina Nyberg applies body filler to the side door of a Subaru WRX.
Photo: Justin Cox
Second year Auto Collision and Refinishing student Tristina Nyberg applies body filler to the side door of a Subaru WRX.Photo: Justin Cox

Second year Auto Collision and Refinishing student Tristina Nyberg applies body filler to the side door of a Subaru WRX.
Photo: Justin Cox

“They at least owe the students an apology,” first year auto collision student Matthew Solomon said about the impending closure of his program. “Why let students enroll if they knew they may not be able to finish. Why didn’t they warn us?”

The Board of Education voted to cut the Electronics Technology and Auto Collision and Refinishing programs at their May 13 meeting. The cuts will impact students and faculty members.

Several students commented that the administration’s main argument for the cuts is their claim that local industry doesn’t have any jobs. According to full time Auto Collision instructor Dean Bergen, local business owners who attended the board meeting said otherwise. He added that there are other jobs, such as insurance adjusting, that are not directly related to the program, but which employ past students.

Part time Auto Collision instructor Ken Jordan also owns a small business. He said that he, too, would hire former students of the program if his business were big enough. Jacob Kolasinski, another Auto Collision part time instructor, said that for many students, the program serves as an outlet.

“The skills I’ve learned in this program have already made me applicable to the job market, and being a convicted felon, this is my second chance. This is a lot of people’s second chance,” student Patrick Halberg said.

“You only get one degree and you’re done,” Robert Gonzales said, referring to the dual degree program offered to auto students.

According to Gonzales, the administration gave students enrolling in these programs the impression that they would always have the option of completing both certificates, but this is no longer the case.

Because of the cuts, students must finish during the one year teach-out. Very few students will be able to finish both the paint and auto body certification programs, as most reported that they won’t be able to do both.

Students receiving only one degree feel that they may not be as competitively positioned in the career field in which they were actually interested. For example, Gonzales had been unaware that he may not be able to take the alternate courses the following year; he said he would rather have started in the Auto Paint program instead of Auto Collision and Refinishing.

Some Electronic Technology students and faculty members said that they were caught off-guard when the proposed cuts were announced.

Doug Weiss, full time Radio Communications instructor, and student Jeff Lizotte both said that the Electronics Technology program students might need to take 16 credits per term and not fail a single class in order to finish the program within the current cut’s guidelines and parameters — all with fewer instructors. According to Weiss, “Failure is not an option.”

Bergen and Jordan said that they didn’t know about the proposed cuts until two days before the April 8 board meeting. They said that the lack of communication affected the amount of time they had to rally when the decision was up for discussion.

Some students mentioned that Portland Community College is the closest college where their programs can be completed. One student expressed concern at having to choose between uprooting his family to finish school or to commute and spend less time with them.

Most of the instructors being cut also have families, according to Doug Weiss. The instructor cuts would likely affect 5-7 people.

Lizotte said that he will have to find different courses to satisfy some of the more specialized requirements for his degree, now that the courses he was planning to take are being cut. He added that other degrees require some of these courses and he is confused as to how the administration could adjust their requirements if those courses aren’t offered.

Lizotte laid his frustrations at the Board of Education’s doorstep, saying, “quit treating education like an industry or a business. We’re here to learn.”