Last winter, President Obama began discussing his plan for keeping America (and Americans) educated and competitive in an ever-expanding global economy. In light of the high cost of tuition, his idea to offer two years of community college for free was exciting to many, but others were concerned about how the federal government could afford such a program.
(Photo Credit: j.o.h.n. walker/Flickr)
Now, the Oregon state legislature has weighed in with their own plan to advance the educational opportunities available to their residents. Piggy-backing off of President Obama’s idea, they have signed a bill which would offer free community college as early as the 2016-2017 school year. Let’s take a closer look at the bill and at what happens next.
1. The bill is a result of years of research and work on the part of senate democrats.
Last week, Oregon legislators passed Senate Bill 81 (also known as the “Oregon Promise“) after years of research aimed at designing a way for the state to provide free community college to qualified state residents.
“Senate Democrats came into this session committed to taking bold action that improves access to higher education and workforce training for Oregonians,” Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum said. “Today we are taking that bold action. The Oregon promise is an innovative approach to improving our workforce, leveraging federal funds, and helping young Oregonians build a path to a successful career.”
2. Certain conditions must be met to qualify.
Oregon residents must apply for state and federal grants first, and the state will then cover the remainder of the tuition. Also, students must apply to community college no more than six months after graduating, and they must maintain a minimum grade point average of 2.5. They’ll also need to pay $50 to their school per term. When these conditions are met, the bill will allow funding to cover the remaining costs.
“We are saying to our young people that if you finish high school, keep up your grades and stay out of trouble, we promise to provide you with an opportunity to reach the middle class on your own,” said Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton. “It will help students stay out of debt, it will help employees find qualified people, and I think it will help Oregonians feel better about their state.”
3. The bill is expected to take effect for the 2016-2017 school-year.
If Oregon Governor Kate Brown signs the bill, as she is anticipated to, it will go into effect for the 2016-2017 school-year. She has until August 17th to sign.
If it passes, Oregon would become the second state (following Tennessee) to offer free community college to all students.
Tell Us What You Think
How do you feel about the bill passed in Oregon? Should community college be free for students? We want to hear from you! Leave a comment or join the discussion on Twitter.