EUGENE, Ore. — A free community college education is one step closer to becoming a reality in Oregon after a recent bill was passed on to the senate floor.
If passed, Senate Bill 1524 would give Oregon high school graduates the opportunity to go to community college for free for two years. The proposal currently has the support of Governor Kitzhaber and students at Lane Community College.
Going to college was always a goal for 22-year-old, John Price. But, the road to get there wasn’t easy.
“I know for myself and my family, affording a four-year institution or even community college was kind of a struggle for us. We weren’t necessarily sure how it was going to be feasible,” said Price.
Now a student at Lane Community College, Price says he’d like to see other students be able to get the same opportunities as he did, regardless of financial situations. That’s why he and other students support senate bill 1524.
“It opens up a lot of doors for folks who don’t necessarily have the means to go to college but definitely would succeed if they did,” said Price.
“I think offering people a free education is a really good way to get people on their way. I think everybody should get a college education. I think that’s really important,” said Rebekah Ellis, also a LCC student.
School officials say although the bill is still on the Senate floor, the talk about education has been a positive sign.
“We’re very encouraged. Anytime our political leaders have a conversation about ways to increase access to education, it’s great,” said Brett Rowlett, director of Governmental and Community Relations at LCC.
Students say they do have questions about the bill but they think the overall idea is beneficial for the community.
“A big questions is always where’s the funding going to come from? But, initially, I think it’s a great idea,” said Ellis.
“It’s a great opportunity for students who can’t necessarily afford college but have great plans for our local community. I think it’s going to boost the community by allowing folks to stay here in Eugene, receive an education, and continue allowing this community to thrive,” said Price.
The bill is now on the Senate floor after a unanimous five to zero vote. The Higher Education Coordinating Commission is expected to present a criteria for the bill by the end of September.
The office of Senator Mark Hass says costs could get as high as $250 million dollars a year, that’s assuming that every Oregon high school graduate takes the state up on the offer.