The HECC’s commitment to equity informs policy decision making, funding recommendations, ongoing programs as well as special initiatives. While equity-related work and initiatives are led throughout the HECC programs and so described throughout the HECC website, we describe here some recent agency efforts to support institutions and partners in equitably serving historically underrepresented populations.
Featured Resource: Real Opportunity video
We encourage viewing and sharing this short inspirational and informational video on the need to dramatically improve racial equity in higher education and workforce training. Real Opportunity: Supporting College Success for Underserved Students of Color will Move Oregon Forward.
Featured 2022 Legislative Outcomes Related to Equity
In 2022, the Oregon Legsislature approved Future Ready Oregon, a comprehensive $200 million investment package that supports the education and training Oregonians need for family-wage careers. This package includes strategic and targeted investments focused on advancing opportunities for historically underserved communities.Future Ready Oregon originated in the Racial Justice Council’s (RJC) Workforce Workgroup, and the package was led by Governor Brown and championed by many partners before the Oregon Legislature’s approval in the 2022 Legislature Session. This historic package invests in existing successful programs and in innovative equity-focused solutions to bolster recruitment, retention, and career advancement opportunities for priority populations.
The Oregon Legislature also made a historic investment in equitable college access and success for tribal students by funding the Oregon Tribal Student Grant for 2022-23. In addition, with the approval of SB 1522 in 2022, changes were made to the Oregon Promise to better support low-income students who are grant recipients. Read more about these changes in the financial aid section below.
Featured 2021 Legislative Outcomes Related to Equity
In recognition of the significant equity gaps Oregon sees in postsecondary education, Oregon established a Task Force on Student Success for Underrepresented Students in Higher Education (HB 2590), charged with visiting postsecondary institutions and meeting with students and other stakeholders to examine issues of access, retention, graduation, and entry into the workforce. In 2022, the Task Force has been engaged in a historic listening tour around Oregon to develop student success policy proposals to benefit underrepresented students.
In 2021, Oregon also passed HB 2167 to permanently establish the Racial Justice Council under the Office of the Governor. In addition, HECC received funding for two new positions in Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, among numerous other equity-focused outcomes. For more information on the 2021 outcomes, see the budget fact sheet and legislative summary here.
Applying an Equity Framework in the Response to the Pandemic
HECC has emphasized that Oregon can best emerge from the pandemic by investing in equitable opportunity for all, with a heightened focus on transforming our postsecondary education and training systems to address disparities. HECC worked closely with state partners and institutions throughout the pandemic on public health guidelines and more, and encouraged institutions and partners to adapt, adopt, and employ the Governor’s Oregon Equity Framework in COVID Response and Recovery as they undertook their COVID response and recovery efforts. Learn more in our issue brief here:
Engagement with Diverse Communities
The HECC is working in numerous ways to expand and deepen our engagement and collaboration with diverse communities.
From 2018-2021, HECC advanced work supported by a $689,000 Talent, Innovation, and Equity (“TIE”) partnership grant from Lumina Foundation to help eliminate disparities in postsecondary success rates between Oregon’s overall student population and historically underrepresented students of color. The grant supported a suite of state leadership and engagement activities aimed to improve postsecondary success in Oregon for Black/African-American, Latino/a/x/Hispanic, Native American/Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander learners, with a particular focus on adult learners of color. With support from the TIE partnership grant, HECC was able to benefit from the collaboration and input of diverse community leaders, conduct community meetings that informed equity strategies, provide sub-grants to institutions to support partnerships with culturally responsive community-based programs, launch educational communications on the need for equity such as the Real Opportunity video, sponsor focus group research on learners of color, and provide multi-lingual resources to campuses on marketing to adult learners of color.
Funding Strategies to Advance Equity Goals
The Oregon Equity Lens has informed the HECC’s development of comprehensive budget recommendations for the state postsecondary education and training investments, as well as legislative proposals, federal investments and other investments. Learn more about the state budget development and legislative process here. Learn more about recent state investments related to equity and student success in the budget fact sheet and legislative summary here. In addition to the major state investments in postsecondary education and training, HECC also administers numerous equity-focused grants supported by state funding, for example: grants to Oregon community colleges to support strategies to serve underserved first-generation populations, grant funds for wrap-around services supporting students pursuing their GED, and more.
Refinement of the Public University Funding Formula
Since 2015-2016, the HECC has led in the design and implementation of a new formula for the distribution of state resources to public universities that incentivizes support for underserved populations. The Student Success and Completion Model (SSCM) creates state financial incentives for universities to increase the number of resident students who complete degrees, with additional funding weights for students of color, low-income, rural, and veteran students. In 2019-2020, HECC approved refinements to the formula described here that create further incentives for universities to improve degree outcomes and equity for Oregon students.
Prioritizing Financial Aid Access and Equity
HECC has 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.
In 2022, the HECC launched the Oregon Tribal Student Grant for 2022-23, a new state financial aid program supported by the Oregon Legislature’s 2022 historic investment in equitable college access and success for tribal students. The Oregon Tribal Student Grant is expected to pay for most or all public undergraduate college-related expenses—including tuition, housing, books, and other costs not covered by other grants—for eligible students who are enrolled members of Oregon’s nine federally recognized Tribes and pursuing their first associate, bachelor’s, or graduate degree. The grant is intended to cover the average cost of undergraduate attendance after all federal and state grants/scholarships have been applied. Learn more about eligibility here. The Oregon Tribal Student Grant is currently only funded for the 2022-2023 academic school year. Renewal of the grant is dependent on funding being allocated by the Oregon state legislature. Also in 2022, with the approval of SB 1522, low-income students who are Oregon Promise grant recipients have increased award amounts to help with rising college costs, and the GPA requirement is lower.
In 2021, the Oregon Legislature increased the investment in the state's need-based financial aid program, the Oregon Opportunity Grant, by 21.8 percent for the 2021-23 biennium. Also in 2021, to address a concerning reduction in the numbers of students applying for aid during the pandemic, HECC launched a grant-supported statewide campaign to increase completion of financial aid applications and support college and career planning. In 2020-21, HECC advocated for and administered state funded emergency financial assistance to support students impacted by the pandemic who did not benefit from federal aid.
A number of HECC’s prior successful financial aid and college affordability initiatives have been driven and guided by equity goals, including: a 2021 legislative proposal related to restructuring financial aid for equity, the 2015 redesign of the Oregon Opportunity Grant to prioritize support for low-income students; the launch of the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA), an alternative to FAFSA for undocumented and/or DACA students who are ineligible for federal financial aid; the FAFSA/ORSAA challenge and FAFSA Plus+ program aimed to increase completion of financial aid applications; and more.
Workforce Training and Employment
HECC implements federal and state workforce programs as well as administration of adult basic skills statewide to train returning students, adults, dislocated workers, and all Oregonians with the skills they need for gainful employment. The agency works in tandem with the Workforce and Talent Development Board (WTDB), the Employment Department, local workforce boards, institutions, and partners in this effort. In 2021, for the first time in HECC history, the State invested general fund dollars to expand youth workforce programs, including passsage of HB 2092, HECC-sponsored legislation funding the Oregon Youth Employment Program. With workforce partners, HECC also recently increased outreach to dislocated workers throughout the pandemic and wildfire crises of 2020, and has obtained federal grants to bolster support of unemployed dislocated workers, and to expand registered apprenticeship opportunities.
Equity-Related Data and Research:
Reporting to steer progress is one of the HECC’s four strategic action areas, and the agency has prioritized the production and accessibility of data related to our equity goals.
- Equity Briefs: In January 2022, the HECC Office of Research and Data released a new series of research publications, Equity Briefs, providing an in-depth look at data on the challenges and successes of public college and university students of color.
- Find data on educational attainment in Oregon here.
- Explore additional Public Postsecondary Student Data, including disaggregated data by age, gender, and ethnicity.
- HECC's Key Performance Metrics measure our progress toward the HECC goals of equity, affordability, student success, and economic and community impact, and they include measures disaggregated by race/ethnicity.
- Statewide Higher Education Snapshots: Since 2018, HECC has clearly reported disaggregated data through the Statewide Higher Education Snapshots, providing a high level overview of data on enrollment, affordability and outcomes for resident students in Oregon's public institutions.
Pursuant to legislative directives, the HECC has also developed numerous policy reports related to equity topics. Formal HECC reports submitted to the Legislature can be found here. More information on recent legislation can be found in our most recent Legislative Resources page here. In addition, the Workforce and Talent Development Board (WTDB) recently published numerous reports related to the inequitable workforce impacts of the pandemic.
Enhancing Opportunities for Adult Learners
HECC continues to work to advance the State’s adult educational attainment goal, efforts recently advised by the WTDB Adult Learner Advisory Committee (ALAC).
Focus Group Research on Adult Learners of Color – With the support of the TIE grant, HECC sponsored focus group research to determine the barriers to enrollment and completion facing adults from underrepresented populations in Oregon: Exploring Experiences of Postsecondary Education for Adult Learners from Communities of Color in Oregon, February 2020.
Adult Learner Outreach Toolkit – Drawing from the focus group research, HECC worked with a contractor to develop a toolkit of marketing resources to help Oregon postsecondary education institutions and community partners to engage adult learners of color in their postsecondary education and workforce training goals.
Promoting Flexible, Streamlined Learner Pathways
HECC is involved in numerous collaborative campus efforts to streamline the community college to university transfer pathway, working to improve affordability and time to degree for students including low-income, first generation, and underserved student groups. HECC also leads policy efforts to improve pathways to earn college credit, including college credit while in high school and Credit for Prior Learning, benefitting many returning and adult students. Recently, HECC developed the process for approval of Applied Baccalaureate Programs at community colleges (SB 3, 2019). In partnership with ODE, HECC also completed a Career and Technical Education (CTE) state plan that was approved by the U.S. Department of Education.
Strategies to Promote Educator Diversification
With our partners, HECC is engaged in numerous ongoing activities to support the diversification of the educator workforce.
- As directed by Senate Bill 755 (2013) and House Bill 3375 (2015), HECC contributes to the Oregon Educator Equity Report, documenting Oregon's progress in diversifying the educator workforce, working with the Education and Workforce Policy Advisor, Oregon Department of Education, and Teacher's Standards and Practices Commission.
- HECC also reviews the educator equity plans for the public colleges of education in Oregon. House Bill 3375 (2015) required that public educator preparation programs in Oregon, with guidance from the HECC, produce written plans to increase cultural and linguistic diversity in the educator workforce through recruitment, retention, and graduation of diverse candidates. The most recent reports and equity plans are available on our Reports page here.
- In addition, the agency administers the Oregon Teacher Scholarship program supporting college affordability for diverse future educators.
Cultural Competency Standards
Through supporting convenings and sharing of information and best practices, HECC supports implementation of House Bill 2864 (2017), which defined cultural competency and directed public universities and community colleges to establish a process for recommendation and oversight of cultural competency standards implementation for institutions and employees.
The HECC works with high schools and partners statewide on pre-college mentoring and outreach programs to prepare students of all backgrounds for success in college and career, through Oregon ASPIRE, community outreach presentations and more. In 2020, HECC piloted a Summer Bridge Outreach Campaign supporting college-bound students during the pandemic.
Agency Equity Leadership and Goals
In addition to the external work for the agency with institutions and partners, the HECC has established and is advancing internal agency goals. The Legislature in 2019 created and funded the agency’s first permanent director of diversity, equity, and inclusion, a position held by Rudyane Rivera-Lindstrom, who leads this work.