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.
Applying an Equity Framework in the Response to the Pandemic
HECC has emphasized that Oregon can emerge from this economic downturn 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:
Recent TIE Grant-Supported Activities to Close Equity Gaps
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 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.
Engagement with Diverse Communities
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 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. 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
In 2015-2016, the HECC began implementing 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
In 2020-2021, HECC has proposed a redesign of the state funded financial aid programs to support equity and affordability goals and prioritize supports for students who face the most financial challenges. Learn more about our approach in our issue brief on Financial Aid and Equity. In 2021, to address a concerning reduction in the numbers of students applying for aid during the pandemic, HECC has also launched a grant-supported statewide campaign to increase completion of financial aid applications and support college and career planning. In 2020-21, HECC also 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: 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 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. With workforce partners, HECC increased outreach to dislocated workers throughout the pandemic and wildfire crises of 2020, and obtained federal grants to bolster support of unemployed dislocated workers. The HECC also recently obtained a grant to increase the capacity of 2021 youth employment summer programs, and obtained and administered a grant 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.
- 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 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 annual 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.