Skip to Content

Audit: Oregon community colleges falling short


Oregon’s higher education agencies and community colleges should target investments to help community college students complete degrees and certificates, a new audit released Wednesday by the secretary of state’s office found.

The auditors analyzed a cohort of community college students and found that only 24 percent finished a degree or certificate at an Oregon community college within seven years. The completion rates were even lower for most students of color.

“Community colleges provide access to higher education for some of Oregon’s historically underserved students,” said Secretary of State Jeanne Atkins. “Ensuring that all community college students have the opportunity to succeed is imperative for improving Oregon’s economy, addressing income inequality and meeting the state’s education and workforce goals.”

Oregon community colleges are making efforts to promote student success by implementing national leading practices. However, most of their strategies reach few students. Capacity constraints at the colleges and at the state limit the impact of these efforts, the audit found.

Oregon is far from reaching its goal that 40 percent of the adult population will have an associate’s degree or post-secondary credential by 2025.

Associate’s degrees and certificates can confer economic benefits on students, as well as provide skilled employees that industry leaders need to be competitive. Improving student success and completion rates at community colleges could help Oregon achieve this goal.

The audit recommends that the Higher Education Coordinating Commission and the Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development focus on:

Increasing capacity to coordinate and support student success efforts
Improving data analysis capacity, support, and infrastructure
Monitoring the impact of new proposals

“This report highlights the need for continued analysis and follow through to ensure that students realize the benefits of new programs and initiatives,” said Gary Blackmer, director of the Oregon Audits Division.

The Oregon Community College Association released the following statement Wednesday in reaction to the audit:

“We welcome the findings. They clearly show that Oregon’s community colleges have done a good job of identifying and developing strategies to help students succeed, and we are proud of that work. However, as the audit says, our ability to better serve our students has been hamstrung by anemic funding and lack of capacity for analysis,” said Andrea Henderson, executive director of the Oregon Community College Association.

“Oregon families and Oregon’s economy rely on healthy community colleges, and it is time to turn the page from anemic funding and restore capacity and the suite of support programs that we know will help students succeed and get credentials that employers need,” she said.

Oregon ranks 46 th nationally in state funding in per-higher education student, which includes both community college and university attendees, according to an annual comparison by the State Higher Education Executive Officers.

Community colleges are Oregon’s ladder to the middle class and good-paying jobs, and sufficient public funding is necessary to help students obtain certificates and degrees.

Colleges are asking legislators to invest at least $550 million in the Community College Support Fund for the 2015-17 biennium, plus additional targeted funding to augment expensive and vital Career and Technical Education vocational programs.

Oregon’s network of 17 community colleges is a vital part of the state’s education system and together those colleges serve roughly 350,000 students a year, or about 1 in 11 Oregonians. The Oregon Community College Association is based in Salem and represents those colleges and their locally elected board members.

Article Topic Follows: News

Jump to comments ↓

KTVZ News Team


KTVZ NewsChannel 21 is committed to providing a forum for civil and constructive conversation.

Please keep your comments respectful and relevant. You can review our Community Guidelines by clicking here

If you would like to share a story idea, please submit it here.

Skip to content