Education: Oregon May Offer Free College Tuition

In a last-minute vote before the holiday weekend, the Oregon Legislative Assembly passed Senate Bill 81, which states that if eligible students apply for and receive federal grants for community college, Oregon will pay the balance of their tuition. In order to be eligible, a student has to have been a resident in Oregon for at least a year prior to enrolling in their courses and must maintain a 2.5 grade point average during each term they are to receive the grant. Oregon would be the second state to launch a tuition-free community college program, after Tennessee started its own Tennessee Promise scholarship last year. If Gov. Kate Brown signs the bill into law, Oregon’s program will begin in 2016, which could allow more than 10,000 Oregon students to attend community college tuition-free. State Senator Mark Hass introduced the bill in 2014, and in his legislative testimony, he cited state estimates that it costs about $14,000 a year in social services and indirect costs to support each of the 70,000 Oregonians between the ages of 18 and 24 who are unemployed and have no education beyond high school. According to Willamette Week, Hass told lawmakers on May 28, “A lifetime of food stamps is much more expensive than the annual community college tuition of $3,000.”

Contributor: Cai Redmond

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