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Free college is more expensive than Oregon planned

(AP Photo)

Last year, Oregon declared free tuition for new students at community colleges. This year, the state is walking back its promises.

It comes as no surprise that Oregon won’t be able to fully fund the program. A high interest/participation rate coupled with limited funding doesn’t jive. Some individuals who signed up will not be able to participate in the free tuition program after all.

To fix the massive over-promise and under-deliver, the state is upping eligibility qualifications from its original standards. Some of the wealthier students will no longer qualify to participate.

The effort has been named the “Oregon Promise Grant.”

“…state grant that helps to cover most tuition costs at any Oregon community college for recent high school graduates and GED® recipients. Oregon Promise award amounts for 2017-18 are currently available in the OSAC Student Portal,” their website explains.

A total of $40 million dollars has been invested for the 2017 to 2019 academic years; this figure is $8 million short of the original projected cost for the program. The $40 million investment allows for the extension of grants for 2016 to 2017 awardees and the addition of new grants for students eligible for the program who will be starting college within the next two years.

Regardless of the budget shortfall, the state still expects to be able to award scholarships to four out of five new applicants. The state also expects to award more scholarships to freshman than ever before. More than 15,000 applied for scholarships. At this time, 8,300 have been notified that they are eligible. Others are still waiting to hear on scholarship eligibility for the semester which begins in late September.

The new criterion for scholarship eligibility will not affect those who qualified for the scholarship in the first year of the program. Last year, 6,800 students qualified for the scholarship and they will all continue to receive the scholarship, and not be eliminated based on the new income qualifications.

Government officials expect the program will be fully restored by next year.

“Most kids will still be able to get the scholarship. It’s just upper-end families who won’t and, frankly, they’re aren’t too many of those at our community colleges anyway,” said State Senator Mark Hass, a chief architect of the program, told CNN Money.

Oregon is not the first or the only state to place income restriction on free college tuition programs. New York, Rhode Island, and Tennessee have also been forced to weed out upper class students from the free-tuition program.

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