The Opportunity Initiative: Investing in Oregon's Higher Education
Meeting date: October 17, 2014
Air date: October 20, 2014
The Opportunity Initiative: Investing in Oregon’s Higher Education
Guest Speaker: Ted Wheeler, Oregon State Treasurer, and Bob Brew, Executive Director, Oregon’s Office of Student Access and Completion
Coordinators: Marty Wilde and Karen Hyatt
The Opportunity Initiative, Ballot Measure 86, would amend the state constitution to create a Student Opportunity Fund. It was referred to the voters by the state legislature. Ted Wheeler will explain the terms and purpose of the measure that, if passed, would have the state Treasury invest the fund. Each $100 million invested could create revenues of $5 million a year for Oregon student assistance.
Although Oregon’s higher education system comes at a high cost, there is relatively little money available for need-based aid for students. That is why students are burdened of ever-greater debt to pay for what they recognize as an essential foundation for productive engagement in the workforce. Of applicants who are fully eligible for grants, only one of five now receives a grant. Even those lucky few can depend on only one year of help. There’s no guarantee of stable aid, even when their eligibility continues.
The Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC) describes itself as “a state agency dedicated to creating a college-going culture for all Oregonians by providing access through information, mentoring, and financial support.” Over the past 55 years, the agency has been known as the Oregon State Scholarship Commission, the Oregon Student Assistance Commission, and the Oregon Student Access Commission. As the only state agency dedicated solely to higher education access, OSAC administers the state’s District and Counties Award Program, and the Oregon Opportunity Grant. Each year, it provides nearly $56 million to about 32,000 lower income Oregon students. OSAC also manages nearly 500 privately funded scholarships through a single online application, and administers the ASPIRE mentoring program – helping students plan and prepare for college in 145 sites across the state.
Wheeler is a sixth generation Oregonian. He earned his BA in Economics from Stanford University, an MBA from Columbia University, and a master’s degree in public policy from the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The town of Wheeler, located on Nehalem Bay on the Oregon Coast, is named after his great-grandfather.
Brew is a Willamette valley native and a former Springfield City Councilor. He earned his bachelor’s in Economics from Miami University of Ohio, and his MBA from Portland State University. Prior to joining OSAC, Brew spent nearly 20 years in local government finance, and he was the Accounting and Budget Manager for Oregon’s Secretary of State Kate Brown.