SALEM &

The education subcommittee of the budget writing Joint Ways and Means Committee has endorsed a $511 million budget for Oregon's community colleges.




Though the figure is higher than numbers floated in earlier legislative recommendations, it is less than the $529 million that the 17 community colleges had sought, and won't prevent tuition increases.




Oregon's community colleges have the second-highest tuition rates in the West. The average annual in-state tuition and fees has climbed from $1,943 in 2001 to $3,074.




The pressure to boost the amount of money for two-year colleges increased following the release of a positive economic forecast in May. Community college students, newspaper editorial writers, Gov. Ted Kulongoski and others lobbied on behalf of the schools.




Kulongoski is now "feeling much better" about the community college budget, his aide Jim Sager said after Monday's subcommittee vote.




But even though the subcommittee backed the $511 million budget, several legislators said it's still less than ideal. "It is with great regret that I see the budget for community colleges going out at this level," said Rep. Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton.




Portland Community College President Preston Pulliams said the money will allow the school to hire a dozen new faculty members.