Access to higher education has waned in recent years as tuition for college and universities has skyrocketed. Washington state took action to ease the problem this year when the Legislature reduced tuition at state schools.
But Oregon has gone a step further in providing free (as in fully subsidized) tuition for Oregonians to attend two-year community colleges. It’s a bold move that has great promise.
Oregon is the second state to offer free tuition to qualified students. Tennessee is the other. Oregon will be watching Tennessee closely and Washington state – as well as the rest of the nation – should have an eye on both as this concept is put into practice.
Lawmakers recently approved Oregon Promise, which provides free community college for in-state high school graduates who fill out a federal student aid form, known as FAFSA. In addition, students must have a high school grade-point average of 2.5 or higher and have lived in the state for at least 12 months.
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Although many students are currently eligible for myriad federal and state program to subsidize their education, they don’t use them for a variety of reasons.
The Oregon Promise program is expected to cost about $7 million, although the state is prepared to spend up to $10 million if demand exceeds projections.
Earlier this year, President Obama floated the idea of free community college for the nation. It would have required an average of $6 billion a year from U.S. taxpayers, another $2 billion from the states and with more strings attached than can be seen at the National Puppetry Festival.
Community colleges are state and local concerns, which is why the approach being tried in Oregon is the proper course of action.
This is excerpted from the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin.