The Student News Site of Central Oregon Community College

The Broadside

The Student News Site of Central Oregon Community College

The Broadside

The Student News Site of Central Oregon Community College

The Broadside

Rising costs of living in Bend affect COCC enrollment

Graphic by Miina McCown

In recent years, Bend has quickly grown into a premier destination for local residents and newcomers seeking greener pastures. However, this influx in population has undeniably led to rapid fluctuations in the housing market, that in turn, have resulted in significant impacts to Central Oregon Community College and its enrollment.

As the price of housing and other living expenses soar, some feel the task of attaining a higher education has become increasingly difficult, while others suspect it has actually equated to our recent boom in student populace as freshman of all ages aspire to future careers that might provide a more comfortable and sustainable means of living.

The escalating cost of living in Bend has ushered in a new set of obstacles for current students. Housing costs, in particular, have skyrocketed to well over the national average, making it increasingly difficult for attendees at COCC to secure affordable accommodations.

This has led many to relocate to nearby communities such as Redmond, Madras or Prineville, resulting in longer commutes and expenditures that only just beat the costs of living locally.

“I don’t know. In my role, I work with people that apply and work with them getting into this facility, into the Wikiup Residence Hall,” said Dustin Hunt, the Housing Manager of Wikiup Hall.

“But I mean, I would say anecdotally the conversations I’m having are how difficult it is to find housing here in town and that sort of thing, so when I look at college enrollment versus how much it costs to live in a place, when I think about how they’re connected I typically think about how hard it is for students then to find a place to live and do that kind of work because again the market, especially in Bend, is not really designed for college students necessarily, like some of the other college towns I’ve been to.”

Moreover, a drastic increase in the prices of daily essentials, such as groceries and utilities, have only added to the financial burden of the average student, making it almost impossible for individuals to live a comfortable life while maintaining recreational activities that are so cherished throughout the locale. Even full time students receiving financial aid and simultaneously working are finding it difficult to stay afloat.

“Lots of our friends tried getting average jobs instead of school, and they’re really struggling right now,” said Jonah Lancaster, a freshman and Army veteran housed at Wickiup Hall.

“You can either struggle day to day or apply some foresight and focus on a long-term goal that’s going to actually change your situation,” Lancaster added.

Despite formidable financial challenges, as of Fall term of 2023, COCC’s total student populace has increased by 21% as compared to the previous year of 2022, as stated in a COCC press release. Some speculate that this surge in first time enrollments and returning students might be conversely related to Bend’s high cost of living, as individuals seek careers offering higher paychecks and incidentally, a more comfortable lifestyle.

“When there’s a lot of employment, student enrollment goes down,” said Lisa Chitwood, an Admissions and Records faculty member at COCC.

“But if there’s high unemployment- maybe that’s related to inflation or politics- a lot of people come back to college to try and get new skill sets or certificates, different things that can lead to a new work path. They’re just trying to get a leg up, which is also a difficult pitch because they don’t have any money, they don’t have the resources to pay for housing, and housing prices are increasing. We live in Central Oregon, which I think is the highest [priced] place in Oregon to live.”

Incidentally, Bend’s nature and recreational allure coupled with its strong job market has seemingly led many students towards seeking degrees associated with the region’s economic opportunities.

Enrollment spikes in fields such as business, technology and healthcare- all of which offer significant earning potentials- have been documented as the COCC community treds pathways to higher earning potentials, routes which are readily pathed through the school’s programs that are tailored to the local job market.

The cost of living in Central Oregon presents both challenges and opportunities for students at Central Oregon Community College. Ironically, while high living expenses may present difficulties while pursuing higher education, they are also seemingly attracting a growing number of potential degree and certificate seeking individuals.

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Marco Mazariegos
Marco Mazariegos, Contributor
Marco Mazariegos is a contributor to The Broadside. He's gained experience in journalism through his operation of the YouTube channel The Speakeasy.

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