The Treasure Hunter

A blog by Joanne Yatvin

Oregon’s Gift to Its Students

on January 3, 2016

Ordinarily I get up at 7:30 A.M., rain or shine.  But it was snowing this morning, so I turned over and went back to sleep until almost 10. A.M.  Although I had decided what to write today, I hadn’t written a word yet and it was a tricky subject. I was worried.  Then, as I ate breakfast, The Oregonian gave me a topic I could handle more easily, and it was good news: almost free tuition for Oregon’s students at community colleges, and it wasn’t going to raise taxes. Read all about it below.

Without raising it’s own debt level, the state of Oregon has found a way to enable almost all high school graduates and those who have earned a GED to attend community college for two years debt free. The only cost to students or their families will be $50 a term for tuition.  Students may enroll next fall.

The program, put together by the Oregon state legislature and named “The Oregon Promise” is not actually new because most of the money was there for before under federal Pell grants. What is new is bringing  together state and federal benefits in an easy-to-understand package with reasonable conditions and the determination to publicize it widely. Not only will the program pay almost all of students’ tuition, it will also provide $1000 a year for books and other college costs. Another attractive feature  is that  Oregon’s taxpayers will not feel  additional pain as a result of the state’s share of the costs.  The program  will add only $10 million a year to an existing state budget of over $9 billion.

The requirements for students under the new program are also quite reasonable. They have to attend school full time and maintain a grade point average of 2.5 or higher. Even undocumented immigrants may participate. Although they are not eligible for federal grants, the state will cover the full price of their tuition.  The only dark side of the programs is that students from low income families may not be able to take advantage of them because they cannot attend school full time and still hold a job to help support their families   Perhaps a couple of the prosperous businesses in Oregon, who often complain there are not enough capable  new workers in the state, will see that it is to their advantage to create prizes for those who would otherwise not be able to attend school full time.

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