Study: Oregon Promise gets more students to college


Study: Oregon Promise gets more students to college

6:41 p.m. PT Feb. 27, 2017

More Oregon students are considering and attending college, particularly first-generation students, since the implementation of Oregon Promise.

Oregon Promise, a state grant program that covers most tuition at Oregon community colleges, is having an impact on the college decisions of students, according to a new study by Education Northwest.

“Survey responses and stories shared from students demonstrate that individuals feel Oregon Promise has made an impact on their lives by reducing the financial burden of college and making college a possibility,” said Michelle Hodara, the study’s lead researcher.

Oregon Promise was created with the passage of Senate Bill 81 in 2015.

The majority of survey respondents who were familiar with Oregon Promise said they agreed or strongly agreed the program helped them see college could be affordable and made them think more about going to college, according to the study. Among first-generation college students surveyed, 75 percent and 69 percent, respectively, agreed or strongly agreed with these two statements.

Additionally, nearly a third of first-generation Oregon Promise recipients agreed or strongly agreed they would not have gone to college without the program, compared with 18 percent of non-first-generation Oregon Promise recipients.

The study includes data from 1,442 (out of 46,000) 18- and 19-year-old high school graduates and GED completers in Oregon who submitted the Free Application for Federal Student Aid in 2016.

Nearly 6,800 recent high school graduates and GED completers enrolled using the program this year. An estimated 44 percent of Oregon Promise recipients were first-generation college students. More than 19,000 individuals in the state applied, Hodara said.

The study also identified the aspects of the program that were most confusing to students and their families — whether Oregon Promise makes college free and how many credits it covers per term, the notification timeline, the reapplication process, and program eligibility requirements.

As a result, state administrators are “working to improve the clarity of communications regarding Oregon Promise for the next grant cycle, particularly through outreach to students, families, and counselors,” according to Education Northwest officials.

“This study is already helping guide our outreach to future students,” said Juan Baez-Arévalo, interim director of the commission’s Office of Student Access and Completion. “We are especially heartened to learn that the program appears to have helped first-generation Oregonians to see that college is possible.”

There is a bill currently facing the Legislature that would remove the funding cap on the program. Currently, the state can only allocate $10 million for the program per fiscal year during the biennium ending June 30, 2017. If the cap is not removed, proponents of Senate Bill 55 said the program will not be able to fund both this year’s students and next’s.

For more information about Oregon Promise, including how to apply for future grants, go to or call toll-free at 800-452-8807.

Contact Natalie Pate at, 503-399-6745, or follow her on Twitter @Nataliempate or on Facebook at

Published by Natalie Pate

Natalie Pate is a freelance journalist and author based in Salem, Oregon. She wrote about education for more than seven years at the Statesman Journal and now covers education and other topics throughout the Pacific Northwest. She is originally from Colorado and earned her B.A. in Politics and French from Willamette University.

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