Higher Education

Reser Stadium football sculpture
Reser Stadium on the campus of Oregon State University in Corvallis. (Oregon State Archives Photo)

Prospective students and families in Oregon can choose from a wide variety of postsecondary education options to earn degrees, certificates and training to build their futures and achieve their career goals. Oregon’s higher education system enrolls hundreds of thousands of students in seven public universities, 17 community colleges, the Oregon Health & Science University, over 50 private colleges and universities, and hundreds of private career and trade schools.

Higher Education Coordinating Commission

Ben Cannon, Executive Director
Address: 255 Capitol St. NE, Salem 97310-0001
Phone: 503-378-5690

Established in 2011 and vested with its current authority in 2013, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) is a 14-member, volunteer commission and agency dedicated to fostering and sustaining the best, most rewarding pathways to opportunity and success for all Oregonians through an accessible, affordable and coordinated network for higher education. For the current list of commissioners, go to: www.oregon.gov/highered/about/Pages/commission.aspx. The commission is supported by the HECC state agency.
The HECC is the single state entity responsible for ensuring pathways to higher educational success for all Oregonians statewide and serves as a convener of the groups and institutions working across the public and private higher education arena.
The work of the HECC is driven by the state’s “40-40-20” educational attainment goal, a clear target against which to measure the state’s educational progress. In support of state goals, the commission develops and implements policies and programs to ensure that Oregon’s network of colleges, universities, workforce development initiatives and pre-college outreach programs are well coordinated to foster student success. It also advises the Legislature, the governor, and the Chief Education Office on policy and funding to meet state postsecondary goals. The major functions of the HECC include:
• Providing one strategic vision for higher education planning, funding and policy in Oregon,
• Authorizing postsecondary programs and degrees,
• Administering key financial aid, workforce, and other programs, and
• Evaluating and reporting on the success of higher education efforts.
Specific key responsibilities of the HECC include consolidated state budget development for public postsecondary education, including Oregon’s seven universities and 17 community colleges; state funding allocations and approval of academic programs for community colleges and public universities; the distribution model for the state’s financial aid programs (Oregon Opportunity Grant, Oregon Promise, and others); approval of missions for public universities; degree authorization for private postsecondary institutions; licensure for private career schools; and approval of institutions to administer students veterans benefits.
The HECC’s strategic plan has six key priorities: sharpening and monitoring goal setting, sustaining public college and university funding, simplifying and aligning student pathways, enhancing student success, improving college affordability, and contributing to prosperous workforce, economy, and communities. The plan emphasizes that Oregon has made progress toward the state’s 40-40-20 goal, yet not all of the state’s populations have experienced equally the benefits of improving completion rates. The HECC takes a lead role in convening partners to further align programming to close achievement and opportunity gaps for historically underrepresented and low-income student populations, as well as improving connections between Oregon’s education and workforce systems.
The HECC agency is organized in the Offices of the Executive Director, Policy, and Communications; Community Colleges and Workforce Development (see Oregon Community Colleges); Student Access and Completion (OSAC); Private Postsecondary Education (see Private and Independent Colleges); University Coordination (see Public Universities); Operations; and Research and Data, and Workforce Investment.

Office of Student Access and Completion

Address: 1500 Valley River Dr., Suite 100, Eugene 97401
Phone: 541-687-7400; Toll-free: 1-800-452-8807
Contact: Bob Brew, OSAC Director and Deputy Executive Director of the HECC
The Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC) administers state, federal and privately funded student financial aid programs for the benefit of Oregonians attending institutions of postsecondary education. OSAC is responsible for the administration of state financial aid and access programs, including budget recommendations, fiscal management, policy and awards of financial aid to Oregon students at private and public institutions statewide. Its financial aid programs include the Oregon Opportunity Grant, Oregon’s largest state-funded, need-based grant program for new students planning to go to college and for continuing college students; the Oregon Promise, a tuition grant program for recent high school graduates or GED recipients entering an Oregon community college and other state financial aid programs. OSAC also administers more than 500 scholarship funds in partnership with foundations, private donors, and others, and works with partners to improve the college and career readiness of Oregon students through the ASPIRE mentoring program, programs to support students with financial aid applications, and more.

Office of Research and Data

Address: 255 Capitol St. NE, Salem 97301
Phone: 503-947-2456
Contact: Amy Cox, Director

The Office of Research and Data, established in 2013, compiles, analyzes, and reports research and data on postsecondary education to inform the HECC, the public, and policymakers on the postsecondary education enterprise. The office conducts research to inform policy decisions and clarify progress toward state goals, especially with regard to student characteristics, enrollment, academic performance and academic pathways. It also reports data on students, courses, programs and institutions to comply with state and federal reporting requirements. 

HECC Office of Workforce Investment

Address: 875 Union St. NE, Salem 97301
Phone: 503-947-2442
Contact: Karen Humelbaugh, Director

The Office of Workforce Investment, formerly a part of the Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, is one of several state entities that contribute oversight, resources, and programming to the workforce development system. The HECC is the administrative entity for federally funded workforce and education programs authorized by the U.S. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) serving Oregonians. The office monitors investments to Oregon’s workforce system, ensuring programmatic compliance and fiscal accountability; provides policy direction and technical assistance to state and local partners, staff, and other stakeholders; and administers the Oregon Youth Conservation Corps (OYCC).