Improving college affordability for Oregon students and families is a continuing priority of the HECC. Recent affordability initiatives 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.
Oregon's State Financial Aid Programs:
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 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. As a result of HECC-sponsored legislation in 2015, Oregon began using a new methodology for awarding the OOG starting in 2016, 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 recipients GED® test graduates. The HECC first launched the Oregon Promise in 2016-17, and approximately 9,460 over 9,300 students received the award in 2017-18. As the second largest state funded financial aid program (after the OOG), it is a significant component of Oregon’s state financial aid investment.
Launch of the Oregon National Guard State Tuition Assistance (ONG-STA) grant
In 2018, HECC launched the new Oregon National Guard State Tuition Assistance (ONG-STA) grant
pursuant to House Bill 4035 (201). This new grant program provides funds for tuition at Oregon community colleges and public universities for current eligible service members of the Oregon Army National Guard and the Oregon Air National Guard.
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, a data partnership between HECC and Oregon high schools and partner organizations.
- An increased focus on college completion recognizes that time-to-degree impacts student cost, and students who stop out do not gain the earning capability of a degree, compounding financial challenges. 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. This state effort was spearheaded by the HECC in coordination with campus-lead OER activities through House Bill 2871 (2015), and further supported with House Bill 2729 (2017).
- 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.
- 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, including DACA or undocumented students.
Reinvestment in Oregon postsecondary education:
Finally, HECC places continued state level focus on reinvestment in Oregon’s public colleges and universities to mitigate tuition increases for students. Despite significant state reinvestment in recent years, Oregon faces a steep funding challenge due to many years of underinvestment. HECC works closely with campuses, students, and state leaders on the levers that impact student cost, seeking meaningful solutions to protect affordable access to a college credential.