After being in operation for 110 years, Oregon College of Art & Craft has decided to close its doors on May 19, 2019.
According to current student Talya Johnson, most students didn’t see the closure coming.
“Most of the student anger seems to be directed at the Board of Trustees, but there is some resentment toward administrators and admissions from students who started this winter term,” Johnson said. “They feel deceived—no one told them the school was in trouble.”
OCAC had previously tried to merge with both Pacific Northwest College of Art and Portland State, but both merges fell through.
“We were told [the merger with PNCA] was a preemptive move to avoid the trend of small art colleges closing,” Johnson said. “[OCAC’s interim president] felt it would open new opportunities for our school and that PNCA and OCAC have had talks off and on for years about merging.”
“There was no indication at the time our school was in financial trouble other than the usual budget concerns involved with running a small private college,” Johnson said.
Johnson added students knew about the potential PSU buy-out through the media, but OCAC had never addressed students directly about it.
PSU issued a statement in late January that they would not absorb OCAC after deciding it wasn’t financially feasible for the university.
“[PSU] explored this because we were excited about the potential opportunity that an acquisition would honor the legacy of art and craft at OCAC, support the arts in our region and bolster our own College of the Arts,” President Rahmat Shoureshi stated. “But our study of different acquisition scenarios, including those involving private philanthropy, showed the potential costs would be too high for PSU.”
In Gov. Kate Brown’s 2019–21 preliminary budget, PSU was denied requests for more funding.
OCAC states on their website students who complete their degree requirements by spring 2019 will receive a degree, but those who do not “will be referred to a partner institution for completion”
“OCAC worked out a teach-out contract for third years and MFA’s with Pacific Northwest College of Art,” Johnson said. “It’s really an extraordinary deal.”
PNCA will honor all credits earned at OCAC, maintain OCAC’s lower tuition and honor all OCAC scholarships for transferring students in good standing.
“PNCA can’t be making money off of this deal; I’m impressed with their generosity, and [the OCAC interim president’s] ability to advocate for us” Johnson said. “It warms my heart. This year’s current thesis year students will graduate as normal.”
As for OCAC staff, the closure will impact all staff, but “[OCAC has] not yet been able to gather answers to many questions regarding what this means for our valued staff and faculty,” according to the website’s FAQ page.
“The faculty are putting on brave faces, but I can tell it’s hitting them hard,” Johnson said. “Some of them have been here 20 or more years, but they are all putting the student needs first.”