November 6, 2018

Pacific Northwest College of Art and Oregon College of Art and Craft Will Explore Merger

PORTLAND, OREGONPacific Northwest College of Art and Oregon College of Art and Craft will explore a merger, following discussions with the boards of both independent Portland-based art schools. The institutions will issue an official memorandum next month detailing the consolidation of staff, resources, and campuses, April Baer reports for Oregon Public Broadcasting. The announcement does not specify a timeline for the merger.

The merger would follow the recent closures of the for-profit Portland Art Institute and the 125-year-old Marylhurst University in the Portland suburbs. PNCA recruited some Art Institute students, but OCAC’s promise of hosting Marylhurst’s art program was scuttled after president Denise Mullen’s abrupt departure in September 2018.

The proposed plan to combine PNCA and OCAC is also a response to the nationwide trend of lower college enrollment owing to the rising cost of tuition. As a single institution, the school would be better equipped to enroll one thousand students, in turn affording some financial stability. PNCA enrolls nearly 600 students in its graduate and undergraduate divisions, and OCAC enrolls nearly 150. “By any measure, OCAC is in a place that needs to explore proactive solutions for a sustainable future,” OCAC interim president Jiseon Lee Isbara said. “The current higher education environment has proven to be precarious. We believe the merger will strengthen the merged colleges’ future.”

Discussions of a possible merger began in 2016, but PNCA and OCAC failed to reach an agreement. The two schools have operated a joint MFA program in applied craft and design for nearly a decade, but as the larger institution, concerns have arisen that PNCA would close OCAC. In 2009, PNCA assumed control of the Museum of Contemporary Craft, which it shuttered in 2016.

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