Fewer new students received the Oregon Promise grant at Central Oregon Community College this fall compared with 2016, a trend that matches many other community colleges throughout the state.

The state grant, which pays community college tuition, was first available to students who graduated high school or earned a GED in 2016. In 2016, about 500 COCC students received the grant. This year, 411 new students got the grant.

There likely are a few reasons for the decline. For one, the state Legislature established a new financial need threshold that affected the number of people who are eligible. Also, in its first year, the state grant earned heavy media coverage that lessened by the second year, according to Alicia Moore, the community college’s dean of student and enrollment services.

For the first group who received it, the state grant was not needs-based. Instead it had a few other requirements, including a minimum 2.5 cumulative GPA.

Per legislation passed in July, the state grant factors in how much families are expected to pay for college, based on a formula that takes into account a family’s income, assets and the number of children they have in college.

Students whose families are expected to pay $18,000 per year or more no longer qualify for the grant. And even though the rule change was finalized after students had submitted applications for the grant, it applied to those who graduated high school in 2017.

The change came late for students planning for college, and that could have affected how many people took advantage of Oregon Promise, Moore said. Central Oregon Community College and other community colleges expected a decline in Oregon Promise numbers.

“There was so much uncertainty whether funding for the program would continue and late notice to students regarding whether they received an Oregon Promise award,” Moore wrote in an email. “Students were notified mid-August, which is typically long after many students make a decision about their college choice.”

While students who received Oregon Promise in 2016 are grandfathered into the previous rules, in September, Moore estimated about 25 percent to 30 percent of the community college’s students who received the grant the first year would not be eligible if they graduated a year later.

In addition to the 411 new Oregon Promise students at Central Oregon Community College, 248 students returning from the previous year received the state grant again, for a total of 659 students at the college who received $392,846 in grants for fall 2017. The community college retained about 61 percent of students who received Oregon Promise from fall 2016. That’s a higher retention rate than the school generally sees with first-year students.

Oregon community colleges were required by the state to create requirements for students who receive the grant. Central Oregon Community College has three such requirements. If students who received Oregon Promise in its first year want to receive the state money again for 2017-18, those students must have: participated in academic advising (a requirement of all new students); attended Bobcat orientation, the school’s new student orientation; and enrolled in and completed a college success class offered by the school for three credits.

According to numbers from the community college, 76 percent of fall Oregon Promise students attend full time. About a third of students in the school’s residence hall are Oregon Promise students.

— Reporter: 541-383-0325, kfisicaro@bendbulletin.com

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