Chapter 5, Part 2 – 1965 – 1966
During 1965, WSC made some progress towards stabilizing its financial situation. Early that year, the HRF executive board and Dr. Elliot met with the Oregon Association of Chiropractic Physicians to propose a mechanism whereby the OACP could “…guarantee financial support to maintain Western States College.” After hours of deliberation, the OACP membership voted 44 to 7 to increase monthly OACP membership dues by $10 for two years. Revenue from the increase in dues would go directly to the college. Of even greater significance, in June 1965 the college retired the $39,000 mortgage on the 63rd Street campus that had been secured by Dr. Higgens a decade earlier. This markedly improved the financial portfolio of the college and provided some relief to monthly expenses.
It was hoped that the commitment by the OACP and retirement of the college’s mortgage would demonstrate sufficient progress towards financial stability to persuade the COA to fully accredit WSC. Unfortunately, this would not be the case.
In 1965, the “Approved Conditionally” status of Western States College was revoked. At the same meeting during which the accreditation of WSC was revoked, the ACA Council on Education approved (in principle only) the phasing-in of a two-year, pre-professional education requirement for admission to chiropractic colleges, to be achieved by 1968. The requirement that had contributed most to WSC’s loss of accreditation was now being promoted by the very same accrediting agency. WSC’s fall 1965 total enrollment dropped to 29 students.
As disastrous as loss of accreditation was for the college, it did not deter forward movement. In October 1965, the HRF authorized Dr. Elliot to negotiate with the Health, Education and Welfare Division of Surplus Property Utilization for a piece of property identified as the Portland FCC Monitoring Station. Although nothing came of the negotiation, simply negotiating with the Federal Government sent a message that WSC was not surrendering. However, it appeared that the OACP was. At its December 1965 meeting, the OACP voted to rescind its decision to increase monthly dues to support the college. It was a sour note upon which to end the year.
1966 was a watershed year for the college. WSC was without accreditation. Enrollment numbers were at historic lows. Expenditures were exceeding revenues by about $1,000 a month with faculty and staff salaries in arrears. In addition to this, although the campus had been on the market for over a year, they had not had a single viable offer. Not only was change desired, it was required. Faculty, students, staff, alumni and the regional chiropractic community were all dissatisfied with the lack of progress. Many resigned themselves to closure of the college.
In May 1966, Drs. Mel Higgens, Bob Elliot, R.D. Stonebrink, Appa Anderson, Douglas Miller, George Dunn, Frank Day, Floyd Dees, Paul Crown, Jay Oliver, and Philbrook Heppner were appointed to serve on a steering committee, the charge of which was to “…vote out the old organization and establish the new board of directors for Western States College of Chiropractic.” The purpose of the new board would be “…to maintain the breadth of the Oregon Law concerning Chiropractic.” The committee’s most immediate concerns were: the college’s inability to meet monthly expenses, unpaid faculty salaries, lack of alumni support, and the lack of an effective student recruitment plan. At its first meeting, the committee passed two resolutions to improve the college’s financial standing:
“Effective with the beginning of the fall semester, 1966, that all students be required to pay all tuition and fees for that semester upon matriculation and that provisions be made for credit arrangements (student loans) upon application and the establishment of credit.”
“That the fiscal policy of W.S.C.C. be revised to require that all tuition and fees be paid in full before issuance of diplomas.”
The steering committee met frequently in May to work on the creation of new HRF bylaws and supplemental articles of incorporation, a task they completed by June. Two remarkable changes were proposed: 1) a change in the name of the corporation from Health Research Foundation to Western States College Foundation, and 2) a change requiring, “…no less than 11 or more than 25 Directors of the Board.”
The proposal was presented to the HRF trustees at their June 10th meeting. Dr. Higgens was absent from that meeting as he was attending the ACA annual convention in Los Angeles, where he planned to meet with FACE to seek support for WSC. The HRF trustees expressed a number of concerns with adoption of the proposed changes. One trustee argued that a larger board would make for an “unwieldy group” and it would be “…far more secure if it remained small and somewhat autocratic.”
A second meeting was scheduled for September, during which issues posing impasse were addressed. The September meeting was as productive as it was congenial. In the end, there was only one issue that needed careful consideration and resolution: how to reimburse the trustees for outstanding loans they had made to the college.
Not surprisingly, Dr. Higgens’ generosity once again provided the solution. He proposed a legal arrangement whereby the trustees would forgive half of the $64,000 owed them for loans and investments to the college, with the stipulation that the forgiven portion be used for student scholarships. The remaining $32,000 would be used as a three-year, no-interest loan to the college, after which the college would make monthly payments over 10 years to the lender/trustees at five percent interest.
None in attendance contested Dr. Higgens’ proposal.
Transition to a new board moved forward. In November 1966, legal documents in keeping with Dr. Higgens’ proposal were drafted and signed. Included in the agreement transferring power to the new board of governance was a provision extending Honorary Life Membership to Drs. Mel Higgens, Charles Williamson, and Randolf Ketchum, the three trustees who had served the HRF with distinction and generosity for many years. A meeting of the new HRF was convened in January 1967 to review all documents and files for the new organization.
At this meeting, a motion was passed that changed the name of Western States College of Chiropractic. On Feb. 1, 1967, a joint meeting of the HRF and the new board of governors was held to elect officers and adopt the new bylaws. The successful completion of both of these activities signaled the smooth and orderly transfer of governance and the establishment of a new name: Western States Chiropractic College.
A review of financial records for 1963 through 1966, with budget projections for 1967, clearly demonstrates the financial “steady-state” that challenged the college for this period.
Although considerable time, effort, and energy were consumed by the process of transferring governance, the college did not pause in its exploration of ways to improve. In 1966, the college seriously considered the purchase of 20 acres on Mt. Sylvania, near the present-day Portland Community College campus at Sylvania. The property was being sold for $110,000. Sale of the current campus would provide more than enough in the way of financing to start a new campus. However, this opportunity was vetoed because many of the students, faculty, and staff owned homes in close proximity to the 63rd Street campus. A move to a more distant location would have financially compromised too many in the campus community.