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Demand prompts tighter Oregon Promise eligibility limits

$40 million put into community college grants

SALEM, Ore. - With the adjournment of the 79th Legislative Session, Governor Brown and the Oregon Legislature have shown their commitment to affordable college pathways for Oregonians through continuation of the high-demand Oregon Promise grant program.

But there will be changes. Here's the rest of Thursday's news release:

The state will invest $40 million in continuing the program for 2017-19, which will support thousands of Oregonians with their community college tuition costs and help make their college dreams a reality. However, due to high turnout for the new program and limited funding to meet projected costs, new applicants entering community college this fall will see changes to eligibility requirements for the Oregon Promise.

Established through legislation in 2015, the Oregon Promise grant helps pay for tuition expenses at Oregon’s 17 community colleges for recent high school graduates and qualified GED® recipients. The $40 million investment allows Oregon to extend grants for 2016-17 awardees and add grants for eligible new students who will enter community college in the next two years.

However, this funding level falls $8 million short of the anticipated costs of fully funding the program this biennium. As a result, beginning with new applicants in fall, 2017, and until future funding levels are sufficient, students with the highest expected family contribution to their college expenses will not be eligible to receive Oregon Promise grant funding. These changes will not impact students who first received the grant in 2016-17 and are continuing in college this fall.

Recent legislation also loosened certain eligibility requirements for future students in several specific circumstances: including students who after high school enter into service with certain career and technical student organizations relating to agriculture or farming before entering college, students who experience significant hardship, and new recruits in the National Guard.

Juan Baez-Arevalo, Interim Director of the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) Office of Student Access and Completion, said, “We are excited by the burgeoning student interest and early impacts of this program, and look forward to supporting student success in the coming year. Students and families will find out in August if they are eligible, and are encouraged to take advantage of this grant to pursue their college goals. Even after we apply the income-related criteria, we expect this new investment will support four out of five of the eligible applicants for this coming fall.”  

Student turnout for the program in its first year far exceeded expectations, with over 6,800 students pursuing community college with the support of this grant, and early findings suggest the Oregon Promise increased community college enrollment from high schools and influenced students’ college-going decisions. 

In 2017, the Oregon Legislature made the difficult choice to implement eligibility limitations using income-related criteria in order to keep the program within its budget constraints. The income-related criteria will not apply to continuing students who first received the grant in 2016-17.

The criteria will be based on the student’s Expected Family Contribution (EFC), which is calculated by the federal government using financial data reported on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), or by the HECC using the Oregon Student Aid Application (ORSAA). The HECC plans to make a decision in August, 2017 on the maximum EFC to determine eligibility for 2017-18 applicants, and the maximum will not be established as a permanent change to the program eligibility, but as a cost-saving measure the state may adjust or eliminate as needed. 

On Wednesday, Governor Brown signed the postsecondary budget bill, Senate Bill 5524, including the majority of Oregon Promise funds for this biennium; other legislation affecting the program including House Bill 5006 and Senate Bill 1032 are pending Governor Brown's signature before becoming law.  

The HECC will notify students by email of their award eligibility in August, and encourages students and families to stay informed by visiting www.OregonPromise.org for future updates. A summary of the recent legislative action related to the program is also detailed in the attached Fact Sheet, Oregon Promise Legislative Changes, 2017-19, and student and family resources may be found on the Oregon Promise website here.


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