Free Community College in Oregon?

The big education policy news from Oregon lately is its “Pay It Forward” plan, under which students in public colleges wouldn’t pay tuition up front but, rather, pay a portion of their income back to the school for a quarter-century following graduation. But from an article in the Statesman Journal comes news of another, arguably more progressive, plan for Oregon:

Some Oregon high school graduates could get free tuition at a community college for two years, under a proposal floated around Tuesday by a Beaverton lawmaker. The free tuition would allow those students to enter a two-year degree program or take college credits that they would transfer to a four-year university.

Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, who is proposing the idea, said it’s part of an effort to remove the barrier for high school graduates who don’t attend college because of high costs.

Hass said his goal was to pass a bill in the next legislative session, so the state could start implementing free tuition in 2015.

The average cost of a credit from an Oregon community college is $85.94. According to the article Hass’s bill could work out to about $250 million (if 31,962 people attended an Oregon community college full time for two years).

Precisely how Oregon might pay for the proposal remains unclear, though Hass maintains that it’s cheaper in the long run: “ultimately it will cost us more to deal with those people in the social service system, or worse, in the correctional system. That’s more expensive than a couple of years of community college.”

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer