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Business college to open in Gateway.

Byline: SHERRI BURI McDONALD The Register-Guard

SPRINGFIELD - The latest newcomer to Springfield's popular Gateway area isn't a high-tech firm or a hospital. It's a private business college.

Wilsonville-based Pioneer Pacific College plans to lease a two-story, 20,000-square-foot building that Chambers Development Corp. will construct on land it owns at International and Sports ways, said Raymond Gauthier, president and owner of the college. Construction crews will break ground for the tilt-up concrete building in the next 45 days, and the estimated $3 million project is expected to be finished in early February, Gauthier said.

The 20-year-old private business and technical college has grown rapidly in the past five years and has two campuses serving about 600 students in the Portland area. The Springfield branch would be its third.

The college wanted to expand in Eugene-Springfield, Gauthier said, because it's a relatively large metro area unserved by other private business colleges.

Although some courses at Lane Community College overlap with Pioneer's offerings, Gauthier said he doesn't consider LCC a direct competitor.

"Community colleges are struggling with their ability to do the technical and vocational programs they'd like to do," he said. "It seemed an ideal time to go down and serve (the Eugene-Springfield) market.

"I feel really comfortable that we'll be well-supported down there once we open our doors," Gauthier said from his Wilsonville office.

Pioneer's main competitors in Oregon are the national institutions ITT Technical Institute and Western Business College.

The Eugene area had been home to the Merritt Davis Business College for years. In the 1970s that became part of Trend College, a Vancouver, Wash.-based institution that ran into financial trouble and closed its nine campuses in 1994.

Eager to get going, Pioneer will set up temporary quarters in the Riverfront Research Park, near the University of Oregon. Until January, Pioneer Pacific will lease 9,000 square feet on the second floor at 1600 Millrace Drive. The space was previously occupied by Dynamix Inc., a computer-game studio that closed in August.

The college may start holding classes there as early as summer term, Gauthier said.

Pioneer has associate degree programs in computer science, business administration, criminal justice and health - primarily medical assisting, Gauthier said.

For the most part, the college serves nontraditional students, often adults who are juggling school and work, changing careers, or returning to the work force after an absence.

The students are highly motivated, Gauthier said. "We don't have people sleeping in our classroom with their head on their arms," he said, adding that more than half the college's students attend classes on evenings and weekends.

Eventually, Pioneer would like to serve about 300 students at its Springfield campus, Gauthier said.

The cost per credit is higher at Pioneer than at community colleges because the school receives no direct government subsidy, Gauthier said. But the cost per credit is typically less than other private colleges in Oregon, he said. Advantages of Pioneer are small classes, personal attention, and speed, he said.

"We can get people an associate degree in 15 months," Gauthier said. Typically, an associate degree program takes two years.

"If you've put your life on hold and turned it inside out to go to school, if you can save a year, or six months or even three months and get that degree and get a decent job, that's pretty important to our students," he said.

Pioneer chose Gateway after a five-month search.

"There isn't that much to look at in Eugene-Springfield," Gauthier said.

Because students will commute from as far north as Scio and as far south as Roseburg, the college wanted to be near Interstate 5, Gauthier said.

The site also needed adequate parking, he added.

The college had approached Symantec Corp. about subleasing part of the 162,230 square feet of office space the software firm vacated in downtown Eugene when it moved earlier this year to its new building in Springfield. Symantec still holds a five-year lease on the space in Eugene.

Symantec was interested, and the city of Eugene was eager to help with the college's parking needs, Gauthier said.

But talks broke off when Symantec and its downtown landlords, Tom Connor and Don Woolley, apparently couldn't agree about costly tenant improvements for Pioneer, Gauthier said.

"It's too bad," he said. "It won't do Eugene any good to have (the building) sit there like that."

Don Woolley did not return telephone calls from The Register-Guard. Tom Connor was out of town Wednesday and unavailable for comment.

A Symantec spokesman did not return a telephone call from The Register-Guard on Wednesday.

Pioneer eventually hopes to open other branches in Oregon, Gauthier said.

The college has no desire to go national, but it wants to be the biggest, best and best-known private business college in Oregon, he said.

"I can absolutely guarantee that Springfield won't be the last campus we have in Oregon," he said, naming Bend and Hillsboro as possible future sites.

PIONEER PACIFIC COLLEGE

Business: Offers associate degree programs in business, law, computer networking and other fields.

Founded: In 1981 in Corvallis as Skilltronics Inc., a school to prepare students for the electronics industry.

Owner and president: Raymond Gauthier

Campuses: Wilsonville, Clackamas

Number of students: 600

Latest development: Opening a campus in Springfield.
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Title Annotation:Pioneer Pacific: Scheduled for a February completion, the Springfield campus will be the private college's third in Oregon.; Higher Education
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Mar 28, 2002
Words:874
Previous Article:Kendall plans return to Springfield with Hyundai.
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