June 17th, 2015
This is the question Senator Mark Hass and his compatriots, Representatives Mark Johnson and Tobias Read, have posed in a bill currently before the Oregon Legislature.
Inspired by Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam's year-old "Tennessee Promise," SB 81 grants students a community college tuition waiver if they meet its several requirements. These include attainment of a high school diploma or a GED within two years of applying for this program, as well as seeking a federal Pell grant. The Oregon Promise would cover the remainder of tuition due after federal resources are applied. Students would pay a nominal $50 fee each term.
Tuition-free community college made its first appearance as a proposal last session in SB 1524. That bill became an interim study by the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Given Oregon's 40-40-20 goal (100 percent high school graduation, 40 percent associate’s degree attainment, and the remaining 40 percent of Oregonians earning a four-year degree or higher by the year 2025), the study explored this concept as a way to raise the state's college-degree attainment.