Prominent figures of Oregon’s legislative body said they want to implement a plan that would increase the amount of state financial aid to college students. The Shared Responsibility Model calls for renovation to the Oregon Opportunity Grant, the current system of financial aid for low-income families.
Legislators examine funding
Prominent figures of Oregon’s legislative body said they want to implement a plan that would increase the amount of state financial aid to college students.
The Shared Responsibility Model calls for renovation to the Oregon Opportunity Grant, the current system of financial aid for low-income families. The model would broaden the range of students who could receive state-funded grants, giving the Oregon Opportunity Grant to more lower- and middle-class families, according to James Sager, education and workforce adviser to Gov. Ted Kulongoski.
“We aren’t working fruitlessly to make college any less unaffordable, but rather we want to make college overall more affordable and accessible,” Sager said.
Two senators, four representatives and a member of the Legislative Fiscal Office, who make up the Education Subcommittee, met at Portland State Wednesday in the Urban Center to discuss the plan for education in Oregon. PSU President Daniel Bernstine, student body President Courtney Morse, Portland Community College President Preston Pulliams and Sager presented to the group of state officials Wednesday.
Under the Shared Responsibility Model, students at a university would be responsible for $7,500 per year, which includes the cost of tuition, food and living. Current estimates suggest that the average student at a public Oregon university needs $14,859 a year to pay for tuition, food and housing.
The model suggests that costs be rationed out between four entities: the student, the student’s family, the federal government and the state. These groups would pay the remaining costs for a student under the Shared Responsibility Model, which would also increase the average grant size in Oregon from $1,207 to $2,103 by the 2008-2009 academic year.
The state appropriation for the model is $110 million, which is considerably higher than the 2005-2007 Oregon Opportunity Grant appropriation of $59.4 million. The program would extend financial aid opportunities to families above the current cutoff for financial aid and increase overall accessibility, said state Sen. Vicki Walker, D-Eugene.
“It’s a really neat way to expand student opportunities and I thank the governor for that expansion,” Walker said.
Sager presented an overview of the governor’s plans to the Education Subcommittee, a part of Oregon’s Joint Committee on Ways and Means. The governor’s plan calls for correlation between the various levels of higher education statewide and a revised plan for students to receive financial aid.
Sager said that the legislative assembly two years ago was the first to analyze the budget and begin planning for student growth beyond typical students. He said the governor thinks that Oregon’s colleges would benefit from recruiting a more diverse body of students.
“We can’t just look at traditional students,” Sager said. “We must consider the entire community that wishes to receive post-secondary education.”
Sager said that 54 of the 68 policy proposals for education funding in 2007-2009 biennium have been approved. The total proposal amount was just under $2 billion, and the approved funding from the original list equates to $1.3 billion in spending on education.
Sager said that most students are a part of the workforce and that most students attending college work to afford their tuition. He said that current rates suggest that students would have to work 49-hour weeks at a minimum wage job in order to sustain tuition.
“Students with part-time jobs usually benefit from their experience, though students working full-time have a harder time succeeding,” Sager said.
Sager said that the Shared Responsibility Model is meant to assist lower-middle-class students interested in attending college. He said that families earning $35,000 to $40,000 per year are not wealthy, yet should be able to send their children to college.
The legislation is also seeking to improve the relationship of community colleges and universities. Bernstine said that PSU is expecting another 10,000 students during the next few years and that he is interested in facilitating the transfer between Portland Community College and local universities during the expected growth.
Pulliams said that there are plans to develop a better transfer system between PCC and PSU for several departments, including the fine arts and environmental sciences programs. He said that a recent step in facilitating the process was to change three-credit courses to four credits, the standard amount of credits offered for a PSU course.
Pulliams said that between 40 and 60 percent of the transfers from PCC are to PSU.
Pulliams said that the colleges in and around Portland are still developing a consortium that would interconnect the schools and increase accessibility for students at each of the universities. The universities included in this development are PSU, PCC, Mount Hood, and Clackamas and Chemeketa community colleges, and the accessibility of computer systems and student activities are their top priorities.
“There are already students that move around all the campuses,” Pulliams said. “Why not just make their experience easier?”