4:26 p.m. PDT June 29, 2016
The Oregon Promise Grant was created by the state Legislature in 2015 to provide free community college tuition for high school graduates. It is funded by a $10 million appropriation for the first year of the program.
Oregon became the second state (after Tennessee) to guarantee free community college to all qualified high-school graduates and to students who have completed their GED, according to the Campaign for Free College Tuition. The program is being developed for implementation in the 2016–2017 school year and is expected to help 4,000 to 6,000 students attend college in the first year.
As the application deadline came in March, people involved with implementing the grant are now working to inform people about it and what they need to do moving forward as recipients.
A few hundred people attended an information event about Oregon Promise at Chemeketa Community College in Salem Tuesday night to learn more.
While some questions still remain — especially for families balancing a budget, students who might want to explore other options, and the community colleges that might experience a large change come this fall — here are some things to know if you are a recipient or potential recipient of the grant
1. Start taking classes this fall: The goal of the grant is to retain more students in Oregon community colleges and make such colleges more accessible, so it is important that recipients know they cannot be awarded the grant, then go on a mission trip, take a gap year or any other type of deferment before using it.
2. Enroll in every term open at the community college selected: For example, Chemeketa Community College operates in 10-week quarters. Grant recipients are required to be enrolled in the fall, winter and spring terms.
3. Choose the number of credits they take: While recipients have to be enrolled each term, they can choose to be part-time or full-time. At Chemeketa, recipients can take as few as six credits or as many as 12.
4. Complete at least 67 percent of those credits: As explained at the event Tuesday, the intent of the grant is not just to open doors, but to help the students succeed. In order to do that, Oregon Promise requires students to complete two-thirds of the classes they enroll in.
5. Participate in a first-year experience class: Within their first year, recipients who are required to take the first-year experience class, at least at Chemeketa, which will help students with goal setting, time management, finding resources on campus and more. It is suggested they take the class in the fall term, though they have the first year to do so in order to maintain the grant. Additionally, the students must pass the class with a C grade or better.
6. Seek a certificate or a degree: If someone is interested in taking a class or two at his or her local community college, the Oregon Promise Grant is not a good fit.
7. Cover other expenses: While the Oregon Promise Grant will help with a good portion of college costs, students will need to pay for any remaining balance for tuition, fees and books for classes, and any other key expenses for their classes. Recipients also have to pay $50 per term to the Oregon Promise. This will be taken out automatically each term if not paid directly.
Students will find out about their award in a financial aid package. For questions or to get more information regarding financial aid packages for Chemeketa Community College specifically, email firstname.lastname@example.org. Unless the student signs an agreement, information will not be released to the families of students as a way to encourage independent responsibility and privacy of their education. This is accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
The next step for recipients once they have discovered they received the grant is to apply to the college they want to attend.
To be eligible, an individual must:
- Graduate from an Oregon high school or complete a GED in Spring/Summer 2016;
- Have a 2.5 cumulative GPA or higher;
- Have been an Oregon resident for at least 12 months prior to enrolling in community college;
- Enroll in an Oregon community college within six months of graduating high school/completing GED for the fall 2016 term;
- Be enrolled in an eligible program at least half time (six or more credit-hours) each term;
- Maintain a 2.5 GPA or higher as they work toward degree or certificate completion to continue to have the grant money.
By the numbers
More than 19,460 Oregon Promise applications were submitted. Of those, about 13,960 applications met the eligibility requirements. About 10,816 of those eligible had a valid FAFSA, about 8,530 of whom listed at least one Oregon community college on their FAFSA.
There were 1,558 eligible recipients listed Chemeketa on their FAFSA and 1,035 have already applied to Chemeketa. Additionally, about 264 of the eligible recipients are also Chemeketa Scholars.
The ethnicity of the students varies, with about 50 percent of them identifying as white, about 26 percent identifying as Latino, about 18 percent unknown, three percent mixed, and just more than one percent identify as Asian.