Opportunity Alert: free college for Oregonians

By Annalena Eckton, Reporter

Did someone say free college? No, not a credit, full tuition for four consecutive years at one of 17 community colleges. Thanks to Senate Bill 81, aka “The Oregon Promise” that passed in July, free higher education will now be accessible to lucky Oregonians. We are only the second state (behind Tennessee) to adopt legislation of this kind, and 4,000-6,000 students are predicted to benefit from it in the coming 2016-2017 school year.

How it works:

If you are interested in any form of college education, you absolutely have to complete the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). This is the national form that determines prospective college students’ eligibility to receive government aid based on their financial and demographic information. Everyone should fill one out, even if they don’t think it’s applicable to them.

According to Yadira Gonzalez, BMCC’s Student Financial Assistance Director, over 800,000 people missed out on $3 billion dollars in educational grants last year by failure to complete a FAFSA form.

Students will then receive a SAR (Student Aid Report) detailing their eligibility, as determined by the government, for need-based financial aid. If an individual gets federal aid that covers most of their tuition costs, Oregon Promise will still guarantee a minimum of $1000 annually that can be put towards general college expenses such as books, materials, or living arrangements. Maximum grant, if no government aid is issued, is full Oregon community college tuition with just $50 in copay per term. Students can choose to attend any of the 17 Oregon community colleges. Some of these include: PCC in Portland, Clackamas in Oregon City, Chemeketa in Salem, Mt Hood in Gresham, and Lane in Eugene.

Am I eligible?

The Oregon Promise Fact Sheet, produced by the HECC (Higher Education Coordinating Commission) published the following list of requirements students applying for the grant have to meet:

– Oregon resident for at least 12 months prior to enrolling in community college
– Received an Oregon high school diploma or GED certificate, or completed grade 12
– Earned a cumulative high school GPA of 2.5+ or equivalent
– Be within six months of high school (or equivalent homeschool or GED) completion
– Has completed a FAFSA and accepted all state and federal grant aid offered
– Has not completed more than 90 credit hours or the curriculums/programs noted above

To continue to be eligible after the first year, recipients must:

– Maintain a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better
– Make satisfactory academic progress
– Complete a FAFSA each academic year
– Enroll at least half time each term for at least three terms each consecutive academic year

The FAFSA goes live in January, and the deadline for 2016-17 Oregon Promise applications is March 1. Officials recommend that students fill them out their applications as early as possible in order to have access to the most grant money. To get started, visit oregonpromise.org and meet with your Cleveland counselor in the SSC.

Happy learning!