Improving college affordability for Oregon students and families is a continuing priority of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC). The HECC administers Oregon's state financial aid programs supporting tens of thousands of students each year in affording their postsecondary education goals. The HECC also places state-level focus on sustained investment in Oregon's public colleges and universities to mitigate tuition increases for students. HECC develops and presents to the Legislature Oregon's comprehensive, integrated postsecondary education and workforce budget request linked to state goals, and public institution operational funding as well as financial aid are a large component of that request. In addition, recent state affordability strategies address not only tuition and financial aid, but also time to degree, efficiency in credit transfer, student success support, textbook affordability, and more, in recognition of the numerous interrelated factors that influence affordability for Oregonians.
For information on the most recent state investment, see Legislative Resources here. For an overview presentation on postsecondary education affordability in Oregon, see the HECC 2021 Legislative Session presentation to the Joint Ways and Means Education Subcommittee on College Affordability.
Oregon's State Financial Aid Programs:
To apply for grants and scholarships: go to OregonStudentAid.gov.
While Oregon has made investments in financial aid in recent years through the Oregon Promise and the Oregon Opportunity Grant, Oregon students and families continue to face significant affordability challenges. HECC has recently advocated for expanding and improving the equitable design of Oregon's state financial aid programs, focusing on addressing Oregon’s affordability crisis by prioritizing those who are most vulnerable to increased costs.
Oregon Opportunity Grant (OOG)
HECC Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC) administers the Oregon Opportunity Grant, Oregon’s longstanding need-based financial aid program serving the lowest-income Oregonians with grants toward postsecondary expenses. Approximately 30,000-40,000 students use the OOG to fund their postsecondary educations each year. The OOG supports low-income students, including recent high school graduates and adults, who attend eligible public and private Oregon colleges and universities. Policy developments:
- In 2018, HECC increased the OOG award amounts, transforming awarding policy from lower flat award amounts, to higher differential amounts, covering a higher share of college costs.
- As a result of HECC-sponsored legislation in 2015, Oregon began prioritizing the highest-need students first.
The Oregon Promise, established through 2015 legislation, provides grants to support tuition at Oregon community colleges for recent high school graduates and GED® test graduates. The HECC first launched the Oregon Promise in 2016-17. The program serves approximately 10,000 students per year. As the second largest state funded financial aid program (after the OOG), it is a significant component of Oregon’s state financial aid investment. Policy developments:
- In 2019, HB 2910 expanded eligibility requirements for the Oregon Promise grant to support eligible individuals who complete their high school diploma or GED® while incarcerated or in custody.
Oregon National Guard State Tuition Assistance (ONG-STA) grant
In 2018, HECC launched the Oregon National Guard State Tuition Assistance (ONG-STA) grant pursuant to House Bill 4035 (2018). This grant program provides tuition funding for current eligible service members of the Oregon Army National Guard and the Oregon Air National Guard. Now in its second year, ONG-STA was recently expanded (HB 2817, 2019), allowing it to be used at Oregon Health and Science University and private non-profit institutions in addition to public institutions, and to be used for certificate programs, as well as associates or bachelor's degrees.
Other Public Grants:
OSAC also administers the Oregon Chafee Education and Training Grant, helping current or former foster care youth with postsecondary education and training, the Oregon Student Child Care Grant, assisting parents enrolled in postsecondary education, and more.
Oregon is leading other affordability innovations, including:
- In an effort to streamline transfer among Oregon’s higher education institutions, and reduce loss of credit that can result in increased college cost, Oregon’s State Legislature passed House Bill 2998 (2017) which led to the development of the Oregon Transfer Compass.
- HECC is successfully helping more Oregon high school seniors complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) through Oregon’s FAFSA Plus+ program.
- An increased focus on college completion recognizes that time-to-degree impacts student cost. In 2015-16, the HECC began implementing the Student Success and Completion Model, a new funding model for Oregon’s seven public universities, incentivizing investments that lead to increased degree completion.
- Oregon has supported continuing efforts to develop and market free textbooks and course materials (Open Educational Resources- OERs) for use in Oregon public colleges and universities since 2015. This state effort was spear-headed by the HECC in coordination with campus-lead OER activities, and supported by 2015 and 2017 legislation. Most recently, in 2019, House Bill 2213 expanded on textbook affordability by requiring public institutions to establish and adopt textbook affordability plans, and HECC received $669,000 to continue developing the OER initiative.
- OSAC continues to partner with private foundations to administer over 600 private scholarships for Oregonians. Oregon students can explore and apply for these scholarships through one central website.
- OSAC provides information on their website regarding college affordability and financial aid resources for undocumented or DACA students. Oregon offers the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA) as an alternative to the FAFSA for non-U.S. citizens who are ineligible for federal aid through the FAFSA.
- In 2019, the state passed Senate Bill 312, aimed to diminish affordability challenges for non-resident Native American or Alaska Native students by providing them with in-state tuition eligibility, given that they receive an Oregon high school diploma or complete grade 12 as a homeschool student or at a private or parochial school.