Governor Ted Kulongoski kicked off an expansion of a higher education funding program Wednesday. Oregon lawmakers voted earlier this year to double the size of the Oregon Opportunity Grants, from $35 million to $72 million. Colin Fogarty reports.
Kulongoski made the announcement at Portland State University, surrounded by students and higher education officials. Kulongoski — who went to college on the GI Bill — has made higher ed funding a big priority.
The Oregon Opportunity Grant goes back to 1971. But this was the formal roll out of a major expansion of it. The Democratic governor called that expansion the “most important higher education program the state has engaged in recent memory.”
Ted Kulongoski: “The Oregon Opportunity Grant Expansion is based on the model of shared responsibility. In other words, we are saying to Oregon’s college students, whether they are 17, 37, or 57, you do your part, we will do ours.”
Doubling the money spent on Opportunity Grants will extend the financial aid to an estimate 6000 more students. It will also give more money to the 27,000 students who already get the grants.
In fact they can check out a state funded web site — getcollegefunds.org — to find a grant award calculator.
That’s what Mayra Gomez did. She’s a pre-nursing student at PSU. She and her brother are the first in her family to go to college.
Tuition and fees at PSU run about $5700. The Oregon Opportunity Grants used to cover $1700 of that. Under the expansion, help for Gomez will go up to $3200.
Mayra Gomez: “It is a big deal. It’s awesome. I’m excited for this. I actually found out today that it was going up. So as soon as I found out I went on to the web site and logged on to see how much more I would be getting. Yeah, it’s exciting.”
Colin Fogarty: “Would you be going to college without it?”
Mayra Gomez: “I don’t know. It’d be pretty tough. I don’t think I’d be a full time student. It would definitely take me longer.”
The expansion of the college grant program also applies to students at private colleges and universities. Kulongoski plans similar kick off events in Springfield and Medford.