Audit Finds Community Colleges in Oregon Are Making Progress But Still Trail Behind

Community Colleges: The Oregon Secretary of State’s office just disclosed the results of an audit of the state’s 17 community colleges, and they don’t look good.

Audit Finds Community Colleges in Oregon Are Making Progress but Still Trail Behind

The Higher Education Coordinating Commission of Oregon, which took over the oversight of Oregon’s community colleges in 2015, conducted the audit to determine the institutions’ current standing and identify critical areas for improvement.

According to the HECC’s research, graduation rates have increased since they began keeping track, and equity disparities have shrunk across the institutions, but there are still many ways to make things better.

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The Higher Education Opportunity and Access Commission (HECC) identified student performance, student assistance, and college sustainability as areas in need of enhancement.

Audit Finds Community Colleges in Oregon
Audit Finds Community Colleges in Oregon

As a result of these analyses, the paper provides six suggestions for improving all three areas.

  • The first piece of advice is to “help drive system improvement” by increasing support for HECC internally through increased staffing and financial allocations.
  • The second suggestion is to improve school openness and record-keeping. The HECC has expressed an interest in collaborating with state leaders to define and publicise success measures and to set benchmarks against which the performance of institutions may be evaluated.
  • The adoption of performance-based financing by the state is at the heart of the third suggestion. The HECC suggests making preparations to increase the positive outcomes and decrease the negative ones should the state decide to do this. The HECC suggests raising strategic funds to increase student achievement and track outcomes if performance-based financing is not implemented.
  • The efficiency of academic advising and student support services is the topic of the fourth suggestion. The HECC stated that this suggestion centres on funding and supporting these support programmes because the audit revealed that students required help in many areas. It also mandates biannual reporting to the Oregon Legislature on the success or failure of certain initiatives.
  • Five, Oregon should engage with the federal government to strengthen financial aid programmes so that more people benefit from them.
  • Last but not least, we propose that all community institutions report on their sustainability every two years. According to the HECC study, the main purpose of this is to monitor schools’ financial health, tuition increases, and the development of shared services and other sustainability initiatives.
  • The study also states that between 2021 and 2023, the state spent $700 million on community colleges and that this new proposal for 2023 to 2025 seeks “significant increases in community college operations and financial aid spending.”

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A total of about 125,000 students are estimated to attend community colleges in Oregon, and this funding will help them.

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