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Deadline Approaches to Apply for Free Community College & More

The deadline to apply for the Oregon Promise tuition program is March 1. (Oregon GEAR UP)
The deadline to apply for the Oregon Promise tuition program is March 1. (Oregon GEAR UP)
February 3, 2016

PORTLAND, Ore. - High school seniors have less than a month to apply for the first "Oregon Promise," a state grant covering tuition for community colleges, including trade and technical education programs at community colleges. .

Students must have a grade point average of 2.5 or higher or have passed the GED within six months of applying for college, no matter their immigration status.

Jennifer Satalino, director of The College Place Oregon, which provides students applying to college with financial advice, said this is a major door-opener.

"We're kind of hoping this is a 'rising tide floats all boats' situation," she said. "We really want to encourage with this program -- with this Oregon Promise -- that idea that college is there, and there's a way to pay for it."

There is $10 million set aside for the program. It's estimated that from 4,000 to 6,000 students will receive grant money.

The Oregon Promise has some caveats. Students also must apply for federal or state aid and accept any funds offered to them. The grant then will cover any leftover costs. Undocumented students who have lived in the state for three years are eligible to apply as well. These students can't apply for federal aid, and Satalino said the Oregon Promise lifts an enormous burden from their shoulders.

"The idea that none of our students have to worry about the first two years of college is absolutely amazing," she said. "It's more than a light at the end of a tunnel."

Oregon is the first state to follow Tennessee, which saw a 10 percent increase in college enrollment last year. Like recipients in Tennessee, Bob Brew, executive director of the Office of Student Access and Completion, said students don't have to use the grant for the traditional community-college route.

"The money can be applied toward the tuition cost of any credit-baring class or career technical education class," he said.

Students can apply at oregonpromise.org. That website also has a link to federal- and state-aid applications.

Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR