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Higher Education Coordination Commission

Other Academic and Student Success Initiatives

In addition to ongoing programs we administer, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) administers special funding and/or policy initiatives to support student success across the public institutions. On this page you can learn about initiatives and grant projects underway to support students of Oregon’s 17 community colleges and seven public universities.

In addition to the initiatives featured here, learn more about our other ongoing policy and funding work with public institutions.

Benefit Navigators

Initially launched by 2021 legislation (House Bill 2835), the state supports Benefit Navigators, employees at Oregon institutions who help students access aid programs and resources. The HECC distributes funds to public higher education institutions to support Benefit Navigators, administers the contracts, and supports partnership and policy development.

  • Funding: The HECC distributes funding to the 17 community colleges and seven public universities to support the employment of Benefit Navigators. The HECC also distributes funding to Portland Community College (PCC) to support the Community of Practice.
  • Role of the Institutions: The institutions hire Benefit Navigators who work with students in navigating various program eligibility and application criteria. The Benevit Navigators coordinate and provide culturally specific resources, including resources for non-English speakers, and coordinate and leverage resources through collaboration with partner organizations.
  • Community of Practice: Convened by PCC, the Community of Practice shares best practices, convenes navigators to facilitate professional development, and ensures accountability through data collection and reporting.

Career Connected Learning Systems Navigators

This initiative funds a dedicated Career Connected Learning Systems Navigator (CCLSN) staff position at each of the 17 community colleges. It also builds a statewide network of navigators supported by HECC and Oregon Department of Education (ODE) staff. 

Each CCLSN works with regional partners to build a connected and aligned system of Career Connected Learning (CCL) within each community college service district. This work is focused on the following objectives.
  • Ensuring K-12 learners have access to equitable and high-quality CCL opportunities, regardless of the size or location of their school
  • Creating seamless pathways into college and career 
  • Helping educators and workforce partners connect learners to education, training, and workforce development opportunities provided by community colleges
This initiative was launched in 2022 through federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund III dollars administered by the ODE. It is currently funded through September 2024.  

Career Pathways

Initially launched in 2004, Oregon’s Career Pathways Initiative has grown and is now an option at all of Oregon’s 17 community colleges. These programs connect Oregonians to student support services that enable them to secure a job or advance in a high-wage, high-demand industry.

Career Pathways offer flexible educational and skills-building options for unemployed and underemployed workers, career changers, part-time students who need to work, and students who desire a short-term credential to jump-start their careers in an entry-level occupation. The Career Pathway Certificates of Completion are short-term education and training programs (less than one year). Some features of these prorgrams include the following.

  • Career Pathways link education and training with student support or wraparound services to help students advance  to higher levels of education and employment.
  • They offer multiple entry and exit points that provide students with flexibility.
  • They include "stackable credentials" such as industry-recognized credentials, occupational licensed credentials, and more, preparing students for additional credentials over time.

The HECC Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development administers funding to support these programs. The Future Ready Oregon investment in 2022 continued and expanded preexisting Career Pathways efforts at each of Oregon’s 17 community colleges.

First-Generation Student Success Grants

Thanks to state funding, the HECC administers the First Generation Student Success Grants that fund numerous projects, programs, and strategies for college-bound and current students. These funds support nine Oregon public community colleges in their work to increase the number of students working toward a degree who are first-generation, underrepresented by race/ethnicity (as defined in Oregon Revised Statute 342.120), and/or low- income. The HECC Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development administers funding to support these programs.

Open Educational Resources

The high cost of textbooks is a factor in college affordability. The state funds efforts to promote the development and use of high-quality, no-cost, and low-cost textbooks and course materials at Oregon public colleges and universities. Open Educational Resources (OERs) are openly licensed teaching, learning, and research resources such as textbooks, videos, and images that the public has the legal permissions to use, share, and build upon. OERs are available for free online or in print at a low cost.

The HECC manages grant funds that support OER development statewide across the public institutions. The activities financially supported by this investment are currently led through Open Oregon Educational Resources. This work is focused on the following activities.

  • Convening partners: Oregon is a national leader in OERs through a community of practice.
  • Professional Development: Open Oregon Educational Resources regularly offer opportunities for faculty to learn about OERs and offer incentives to adopt, adapt, and create.
  • Policy Support: Open Oregon Educational Resources work with each community college and university to implement legislative requirements and assess their impacts.

This statewide effort to support OERs was spearheaded by the HECC in 2015 in coordination with campus partners. It has been supported by legislation and investment over multiple legislative budget cycles. The implementation of the state’s OER investment is governed by ORS 348.748 – 348.757. The HECC Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development awards funding to Open Oregon Educational Resources. The investment serves students across all public institutions.

The HECC is required to regularly submit a report to the Oregon Legislature on the use of the OER investment. The most recent report is available on our Reports page here.

Learn more at Open Oregon Educational Resources.