ic S/general/checkmark circled Thanks for subscribing! Be on the lookout for our next newsletter.
ic S/general/checkmark circled
Saved to My Favorites. View My Favorites
Articles / Campus Life / Art Schools in Oregon Expand After a Spate of College Closings

Art Schools in Oregon Expand After a Spate of College Closings

Joy Bullen
Written by Joy Bullen | July 1, 2021
Willamette University.png
Willamette University's Waller Hall with blue sky and the Oregon State Capitol in the background.

Willamette and PNCA Merge and PSU Plans New Art + Design Building

It’s been a tough few years for Oregon college and universities. But now Oregon’s vibrant community of artists and scholars has a few good reason to celebrate. 

On Wednesday, Willamette University in Salem, OR announced that it finalized plans to merge with the Pacific Northwest College of Art (PNCA), a Portland-based art institute founded in 1909. The merger was supported by a $2 million gift from the family of the late Arlene Schnitzer, who attended PNCA in 1958. The money will be used to create a PNCA Dean’s Initiative Fund to provide resources for the new dean to experiment with new initiatives and collaborations for the college. The search has begun for a new dean for Pacific Northwest College of the Art.

PNCA will maintain its Portland-based campus and current faculty, but the search has begun for a new dean. The school will no longer be its own entity, but will now be one of four schools within Willamette University, joining the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Law and the Atkinson Graduate School of Management. Founded in 1842, Willamette is widely considered the oldest university in the western United States.

In an official statement released by the colleges, PNCA Board Chair Scott D. Musch said,

"As we enter this new era for both institutions, we are confident that PNCA and Willamette’s distinguished legacies, our commitment to students and our contributions to the cultural vibrancy of the Pacific Northwest will be strengthened and enhanced by this relationship. We’re eager to see what our students will accomplish with the broader curricular offerings and opportunities this presents them.”

State Funding For a New PSU Art + Design Building Approved

On the same day that Willamette and PNCA finalized their merger, the Oregon State Legislature approved $68 million in state funds for Portland State University to build a new Art + Design center. The new building will act as hub for the existing Art and Design department, which had been spread out across multiple buildings, and free up space for other departments.

“We are so excited to finally bring all of our students together in one central hub, a place that embraces the power of creativity and interdisciplinary collaboration,” said Lis Charman, director of the School of Art + Design. “We envision this as a place where everyone, regardless of background or identity, is encouraged to dream and make.” 

In line with this vision of creating a more inclusive school, the PSU School of Business announced this week, the last week of Pride Month, to announce their new Maverick program, which will provide increased mentorship and support for LGBTQIA+ business students.

Several Oregon Colleges Closed In Recent Years

The expansions of these three colleges are welcome news to many Oregonians, especially because they come on the heels of a difficult year, and follow the recent closing of four other colleges in the state.

The Oregon College of Arts and Crafts shut its door in 2019 after a 112 year run, and the Art Institute of Portland, a for-profit school owned by the Education Management Corporation (EDMC), closed in 2018. Marylhurst University also closed its Marylhurst and Portland campuses in 2018.

Concordia University Sells Its Campus in Northeast Portland

Most recently, in the Spring of 2020, Concordia University in Portland announced it would cease operations at the end of the Spring semester. The 115-year old University enrolled 6000 students, and employed 1500 faculty and staff. The news came as a shock to many members of the community, who viewed soaring enrollment from 2010 to 2014 as a sign that the school was thriving and adapting to the times. 

In hindsight, experts see red flags, including high-turnover among administration and mounting debt. Concordia University is now involved in multiple lawsuits, including a class action lawsuit brought on more than ninety former students who want their tuition money refunded and a suit brought by the technology company who claims the college owes them $300 million. 

This week, Concordia sold their 24-acre campus in Northeast Portland to Lutheran Church Extension Fund, an organization affiliated with the school’s parent company, The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, in a foreclosure auction held at the Multnomah County Courthouse.

PSU Expansion and Willamette/PNCA Merger Bring Hope After College Closings

It’s been a tough few years for Oregon college and universities. But now, Oregon’s vibrant community of artists and scholars has reason to celebrate. 

Willamette Board of Trustees Chair Lynne Saxton is one of those celebrating. “The joining of these two institutions will create tremendous new opportunities for student artists and ensure that they have tools they need to leave a mark on the world through their art, at a time when the world needs them most." Saxton said.  "We’re so pleased that this merger is officially complete and to move forward with our exciting plans.”

Written by

Joy Bullen

Joy Bullen

Joy Bullen is College Confidential's Senior Editor and Head of Content. She is a graduate of Kenyon College, where she majored in English and Creative Writing. She also earned a master’s in Psychology from The New School for Social Research in NYC.

Before becoming a full-time writer and editor, Joy coached thousands of prospective and enrolled college students on admissions and academic and career success. She also managed a team of academic and career coaches and consulted with universities on how to create programs that have better outcomes for students.

More on Campus Life

See all

Campus Safety: Awareness and Preparedness for Emergency Situations

College campuses are places of learning, growth, and community where students can pursue their academic dreams, make lifelong fri…


Moving Across the Country for College: Going from the West Coast to an East Coast College

I was born in the Bay Area of California and lived there my whole life. As a senior in high school I committed to Lehigh, and eve…


The College Renter's Guide: Why Renters Insurance Matters in Campus Housing

College is an exciting journey filled with new experiences, newfound independence, and, often, shared housing arrangements. As yo…

Insights on Northeastern University: Applying, Greek Life, and Adjusting to College Life
Day in the Life of a Case Western Student

Day in the Life of a Case Western Student

When looking at colleges, I was obsessed with finding out what the typical day was like for a student at that university. I would…

Get a student loan that goes beyond tuition.

Ascent offers cosigned and non-cosigned student loans with exclusive benefits that set students up for success.

Explore Now!
Find Your Scholarship

Want to find money for school that doesn’t need to be paid back? Access insights and advice on how to search and apply for scholarships!

Search for Scholarship