Local government, Schools

TVCC board approves $2.3 million for nursing center

ONTARIO—Treasure Valley Community College’s nursing center construction costs have increased by nearly $2 million. 

While college officials have scaled back design to cut costs by $1 million, according to Abby Lee, the college’s vice president of communications, the total construction costs have jumped to $12.8 million, up from $11 million.

During the college board’s Tuesday, Oct. 17 meeting, the members approved $2.3 million in funding from its special project reserve fund to allow construction to begin next April, according to Lee.

Lee said project leaders hope to complete the construction of the Nursing and Allied Health Professions Center by the spring of 2025.

The college, which had received $5 million in 2015 from the state for the 30,000-square-foot building, was required by conditions of the state grant to match funds in February. In December, the college received word that it would get $3 million through federal legislation. The college arranged to borrow up to $4.95 million from the Bank of Eastern Oregon at 8% interest if the college could not come up with the required matching funds.

Instead of using the bridge loan, which, according to Lee, is at “record-high interest rates,” Dana Young, TVCC president, asked the board to use the college’s reserves to make up the cost difference while the college continues to raise funds.

So far, Lee said, the college has raised $10.5 million and needs $2.25 million to complete the project.

Some board members suggested scaling back the size of the building to save money, according to Lee. Young told the members that would require state and federal approval and would limit the scope of the college’s health care program expansion.

In a subsequent Friday, Oct. 20 interview, Roger Findley, a TVCC board member, said the money from the special project reserve fund is essentially a loan from itself.

The board voted 5-2 to approve the use of the funds, with Findley and Ken Hart voting no. When the full resolution came up – approving the $2.3 million as well as increasing the construction amount from $11 million to $12.8 million – the board approved the resolution unanimously. Nonetheless, Findley said the board could have waited another month to see how the college foundation’s fundraising efforts worked out. According to Cathy Yasuda, executive director of the TVCC Foundation, she is waiting to hear back on roughly $2 million in grant funding.

Meantime, Findley said the college has a history of not paying back the money it has borrowed over the years.

Findley said the college took out a bridge loan for the college’s science building, the Laura Cunningham Science Center.  He said the college is still paying off the loan.

“If we can’t pay this money back,” Findley said, “somebody is going to have to pick up the bill.”

The faculty, staff and students would ultimately be on the hook to pick up the bill, Findley said.

Findley said when it comes time to negotiate a contract with a salary increase the administrators will say the same thing to staff, they’ve told them in the past: the college doesn’t have the money.

And for the students, Findley said, the administrators will say, “‘well, we need more money. We’ll increase your tuition and fees.'”

Findley said he has seen students, staff and faculty suffer “numerous” times in the past when the college has overextended itself financially.

He said if the college had a record of increasing enrollment, then he might feel differently. However, he said, that’s not the case and the college has a record of decreasing enrollment.

Lee said the college has roughly $4 million across all the reserve funds. She said the loan came with the stipulation to pay the money back, and administrators asked for approval to temporarily use up to $2.3 million from the internal accounts.

“Even if we end up using the full $2.3 million,” Lee said, “we still have $1.7 million remaining in all accounts.”

Travis McFetridge, vice president of student services, told the board during its September regular meeting that while the college’s head count was down, the rate of returning students were up 25% and that his staff had been busy with walk-ins, which, he said was a “good indicator” for enrollment.

Molly Lightfield, a college nursing instructor, told the board that nearly 50 students are enrolled in the nursing program. She estimated that enrollment would jump to roughly 65 when the nursing center is complete.

Mara Poynter, executive director of the college’s nursing program, said classes and labs are at capacity at the current building. Poynter said the program needs room to expand medical and nursing assistant courses. Additionally, among other programs, Poynter said the college needs to expand its emergency medical service offerings. The new building, she said, would allow the college to grow those programs and others. 

Findley said while he supports the nursing program and emphasized that it’s staffed with “great instructors,” he’s concerned about the college’s ability to find additional qualified instructors to support the expansion of the program.

A 2020 study from the American Association of Colleges of Nursing revealed that Oregon has the third-highest vacancy rate for nursing school positions in the U.S. 

Findley pointed out that surgical technician curriculum the college submitted to the state for accreditation would not be accepted by the state accreditation board until the college hired a full-time instructor for the program despite the opening having been advertised for several months.

“They won’t approve it,” he said. Well, is that going to be true for all these other programs? That’s a real concern for me.”

Lee said the college hired a new nursing instructor this month, bringing the staff to four full-time instructors. She said they need two more full-time instructors to be fully staffed in the department.

She said the college is working with Saint Alphonsus Medical Center to review options to find an instructor for the surgical tech program. Additionally, she said the college is researching hiring a recruiting firm and evaluating the salary for the position.

CORRECTION: The Treasure Valley Community College Board voted 5-2 to approve the use of $2.3 million in special project reserve funds to complete construction of the college’s Nursing and Allied Health Professions Center. A Nov. 1 article reported the vote was 3-2, based on the account of board member Roger Findley. TVCC’s Caldwell campus is owned by the city of Caldwell and was not financed with a construction loan as reported in the article. The erroneous financing information in the original was provided by Findley.

News tip? Contact reporter Steven Mitchell at [email protected]

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