Can Oregon afford to keep its promise?

By Henry Pastorino

Staff Writer


For those who want the opportunity to live at home, work and who want to pursue a cheaper method of education before transferring to a university, community college provides an answer.

Emiko Bledsoe, a 2016 Parkrose graduate and a Mt. Hood Community College freshman, is currently on the community grant called Oregon Promise.

“My first term of college only cost about $400 out of pocket,” Bledsoe said.

In July of 2015, Oregon Legislature passed Senate Bill 81. This bill gives financial support to Oregon high school graduates for community college tuition.

The bill, better known as the Oregon Promise, allowed Oregon to set aside $10 million for the 2016-2017 school year to provide tuition costs for up to 90 community college credits. The budget for next year is still in limbo, with a vote arising later this year that will decide the money allotted for the program for 2017-2018.

90 community college credits is equivalent to two years enrolled in a community college. Oregon Promise covers tuition ranging from $1,000 to $3,248 (minus $50 co pay) a year for students enrolled in community college but does not cover the entire cost.

Each recipient must be a recent Oregon high school graduate with a 2.5 cumulative GPA or have a GED with a score of 145 or higher on each test. The student also has to have been an Oregon resident for at least 12 months prior and have no more than 90 college credits attempted or completed.

Counselor Lynn Cole has had years of experience helping students meet requirements to graduate from high school. Cole said, “[The Oregon Promise] offers a way for many students who would not be able to go to community college to be able to access college. It works really well for our inbetween students. They don’t qualify for the Pell grant but they don’t have the money to pay for college.”    

Income can mean a lot for a student attending college. It could mean the difference of making or breaking a student’s future. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, a student with a high school diploma only makes about $678 a week. A student with an associate’s degree, on the other hand, makes about $798 a week.

“Research shows that if an individual goes to college and graduates from college they will be more likely to get a job, keep that job, they will be more likely to keep that job even in times of economic crisis and they will make more money.” Alaina Langdahl, an English teacher at Parkrose, said.

This isn’t the only college grant that students have been able to get help from. Previously, students have used the Federal Pell grant instead. This grant allows up to $5,920 per student for the 2017-2018 school year.

The Pell grant, however, differs from Oregon Promise in a few ways. The Pell grant allows a student to use the grant on any college, in or out of the state, and not just a community college. But it is also based on parents’ income and the student’s attributes.

“[The Oregon Promise] makes it easier for students in the rainbow zone of financial aid to get the aid they need to attend school. MacKenzie Hurlburt, a 2016 Parkrose graduate and a PCC freshman said. Hurlburt is going to college under the Oregon Promise for a Computer Science degree. 

The “rainbow zone” Hurlburt is referring to is when students can’t afford to pay for college without a grant, but also have too much family income to be able to apply for the Pell grant.      

For next year, there is question as to how the budget will be reconsidered. While Oregon legislature set aside $10 million for the 2016-2017 school year, the 2017-2018 school year budget was to be voted on the following year. The vote will decide if the program will be refunded or if the budget will be changed.

According to Oregon Live, officials are estimating there could be a $3.5 million additional cost added to the bill. But Oregon is confronted with a $1.8 million budget gap. This means, that, for the Oregon Promise, everything is on the line.

For many students in Oregon, this bill could mean whether they attend college or not.

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Photo by Waymond Crowder