Community college tuition isn't free for everyone

Oregon Promise changes eligibility requirements

Free tuition is not for everyone

BEND, Ore. - (Update: The 8,300  and 2,100 numbers are not exactly the number of awarded and not awarded—those are the numbers of students who have been informed they are eligible to receive awards, or not. In order to actually be awarded, students will need to enroll in community colleges this fall and accept the award)


Oregon was one of the first states to offer free community college to eligible new students.

But a budget shortfall means tuition actually won't be free for everyone.

In it's first year, the Oregon Promise program provided funds to more than 6,800 students, several hundred of whom were at Central Oregon Community College.

Ron Paradis, the director of college relations at COCC, said he thinks the program increased enrollment among certain students. 

"Yes, we do believe we saw more of the younger students right out of high school attending than what we have normally seen, and we believe Oregon Promise did have a lot to do with that," Paradis said. 

In the fall of 2016, 577 COCC students received Oregon Promise grants.

Officials expect that number to be about 700 in 2017. 

But some hopeful students will be getting denied this year who wouldn't have last year.

"It's disappointing it's not able to fund all the students who want to be able to do that, but we're pleased it is able to fund 80 percent of the students who do have the most need," Paradis said. 

In this year's legislative session, only $40 million was allotted for the program. That may sound like a lot, but it's actually $8 million short of the full program cost.

That means not everyone who was eligible for the award last year is eligible this year.

The new rules state that now students whose families can contribute $18,000 or more to their student's education will not be eligible for the program.

"We've been hearing from a lot of students, most of course who did get it, but obviously some who are disappointed that they did not," Paradis said.

According to the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission, this year, 8,300 students were awarded scholarships, but 2,100 were denied because their expected family contribution was too high.

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