A group of alumni and other supporters of Oregon College of Art and Craft have formed a nonprofit group with a goal of saving the college’s accredited degree program. The college, part of a 112-year-old institution that also offers community classes, announced it’s ending academic operations this spring.

A February 20 protest aimed at getting the OCAC board's attention for the concerns of students and alumni.

A February 20 protest aimed at getting the OCAC board’s attention for the concerns of students and alumni.

Kelly Egan/Courtesy of Kelly Egan

Kelly Egan, a member of the Save OCAC, is on schedule to finish her degree in May, part of what could be the college’s last graduating class. She says there might be several paths forward. The group’s primary hope is a fundraising campaign to make the college whole. If that can’t be accomplished, she says the group feels a second-best option would involve selling the campus to a friendly developer who might lease the land back to the college for a nominal fee.

“What we don’t want to see happen,” Egan says, “is to have some outside entity come in, take over the land in some other name, and get rid of the buildings and the programs and just destroy what has been part of the Portland community for 112 years.”  

Egan says a Wednesday protest designed to reach out directly to the OCAC board might be the first of several such actions. She says the group would not rule out legal action to stop the closure, if the necessary funds can be raised. She adds that several parties concerned with how the board’s process has been conducted have complained to the Oregon Attorney General’s office.

OCAC’s board indicated earlier this month the school’s forested campus will be sold to finance the last few months of classes. Operational costs have been challenging. The school’s enrollment is fewer than 150 students, and several rounds of merger talks with PNCA and PSU did not deliver a solution.

Several figures from Portland’s creative ecosystem have approached the OCAC board about possible options. Architect Stuart Emmons has drafted a proposal for keeping the college open, and has spent the last few weeks talking to funders about the major gifts that would be needed to preserve degree programs. Those familiar with OCAC’s finances estimate a minimum of $5 million would be needed by May just to set the stage for survival through the year’s end.

Emmons says OCAC’s function as a driver for the region’s creative class is too important to allow the school’s 112-year history to come to a close.

“OCAC is a critical part of Portland,” Emmons said. “Who are we? What kind of city are we? We ought to draw the line and save institutions like this. They’re a key part of our culture.”

A spokesperson for the OCAC board sent a written statement, stating:

“The circumstances around the Board of Trustees’ decision to close OCAC’s degree programs have not changed and the decision remains final. The Board has explored many options in recent years for keeping the college open and ultimately determined that closing the degree programs was the only responsible decision they could make. Right now, what’s most important is focusing on helping our students, faculty, staff and community to plan as smooth a transition as possible.”

She says the board is considering several offers for the property, the specifics of which are not public.