A Brief History of the Oregon Student Access Commission
Starting with helping just one student per legislator in 1959, OSAC has expanded its reach in a 50-year period to help more than 600,000 Oregon students finance their educational goals with over 650 million in grants and scholarships. The quest for affordable access to higher education that Mark Hatfield dreamed about over 50 years ago has been continued at OSAC through pioneering partnerships and more than 3,000 citizen volunteers, annually, and cooperative endeavors with private donors, employers, financial institutions, and nonprofit organizations committed to helping Oregon students access postsecondary education and training.
State Senator Mark Hatfield authors bill to establish state scholarship program for students attending Oregon public and private colleges and a citizen board to administer the program. The bill fails, but it sparks interest in aiding Oregonians in their quest for education.
A citizen discovers a dormant 1885 Oregon statute that allows 126 state legislators and judges to each award free tuition to one student per year at the Oregon Agricultural College (now Oregon State University). The Attorney General rules the law must be honored. OSU admissions officers resent being forced to admit beneficiaries of political patronage. Presidents of other institutions object to a state program for the students of a single institution. Citizen response was large, and the public begins to demand a statewide student aid program.
Governor Mark Hatfield engineers bipartisan support for bill creating a "District and County Award" and a commission (the forerunner of OSAC) to administer it. The Oregon State Scholarship Commission is comprised of unpaid citizens appointed by the Governor, and is staffed by the Chancellor's Office. The awards are tuition remissions funded by the OUS institutions with eligibility broadened to undergraduates at all colleges and universities administered by the Board of Higher Education. The Commission also is given authority to solicit and administer privately funded scholarships for the benefit of Oregon students.
1961 Session - Cash Award Program / Budget for Administration
With Governor Hatfield's support, a modified version of the appropriation portion of the 1959 bill is introduced. Rather than extending the D&C program to students at independent colleges, the bill would create a "scholastic grant program." Awardees would be recent high school graduates chosen on the basis of academic excellence and financial need. Awardees could choose among all accredited colleges in Oregon. Awards would be in the form of cash grants-the State of Oregon, not the institutions, would subsidize these students. The bill also seeks an appropriation for agency administration. The bill passes and appropriations are made. The program is called Oregon Cash Award. The Commission is now an entity separate from the Chancellor's Office, though it continues to be housed on the University of Oregon Campus. The agency is staffed by an Executive Secretary. Funding and work assignments are shared between the Commission and the Chancellor's Office. The position is held initially by Guy Lutz and subsequently by David Johnson.
1965 - Federal Guaranteed Student Loans
Congress creates the Guaranteed Student Loan Program (GSL). Initially, the State Board of Higher Education is responsible for this program in Oregon. The Board contracts with United Student Aid Funds, of Indianapolis, Indiana, for operation of the Oregon GSL Program.
1966 - Jeff Lee hired as Executive Secretary of the Commission.
Appointment is .75 FTE Commission staff, .25 FTE OUS Chancellor's staff. Commission also receives .25 FTE of clerical support from the Chancellor's Office.
The Commission takes over the Guaranteed Student Loan program for all of Oregon. The Commission could guarantee loans from Oregon lenders for resident students attending accredited postsecondary institutions. The Commission establishes its own offices in Eugene.
The Oregon Need Grant is created by the Legislature. Later known as the Oregon Opportunity Grant, this program provides need-based grants to undergraduates in both public and private 4-year colleges in Oregon. A separate program provides similar grants to students at Oregon community colleges. Community college program becomes part of the Need Grant in 1973.
1979 Legislative Session: OUS Tuition Off-set Grant
In response to sharp OUS tuition increases, the Legislature appropriates additional funds to the Need Grant and provides a budget note directing that the funds be used to insulate needy resident undergraduates at OUS institutions from the increased costs. This Tuition Off-set Grant (TOG) supplements Need Grants for OUS students from 1979 to 1983.
1970s to 1980s
Private scholarships administered by the Commission increase in number, and the Commission's administrative assistance is sought by very large private scholarship programs funded by the Oregon Journal Publishing Company and The Ford Family Foundation. The agency and the Oregon Community Foundation establish a partnership for the fiscal administration of endowed scholarship programs, with the Commission continuing to administer application and selection processes.
The Office of Degree Authorization (ODA) existed historically as a set of functions within the Oregon Education Coordinating Council, and is reconfigured and renamed the Oregon Educational Coordinating Commission in 1975. That entity eventually becomes the Office of Educational Policy and Planning in 1987. When that unit is disbanded in 1997 and some of its duties assigned to the governor's workforce and education advisor, ODA is assigned in its present form to OSAC.
The Amendments to the Higher Education Act creates a pilot project for an alternative way to operate federal student loan programs called the Federal Ford Direct Loan Program. The Guaranteed Student Loan Program at OSAC becomes the Federal Family Education Loan Program (FFELP).
The Federal Ford Direct Loan Program set out to replace FFELP throughout the nation. The Commission reduces FFELP lending to 70 percent, but still continues to provide loans for students after most states left the program.
Long-time Commission Executive Director Jeff Lee retires. Doug Collins becomes Executive Director.
1995 Legislative Session - "Controlled 12%" Need Grant Policy / State Grant Supplemental Award for Independent Colleges
The Commission recommends to the Legislature that individual Need Grants be equal to approximately 12% of costs for students at all institutions-except for students at the most expensive independent colleges, whose awards would be truncated through the use of a formula related to state subsidies of undergraduate instruction in OUS institutions. The anticipated result would be a significant decrease in funding for students at Independent colleges. The Ways and Means Committee ultimately adds $3 million to the Commission's grant budget, and, through a budget note, directs that it be distributed to students in independent colleges as State Grant Supplement Awards (SGSA)-in addition to Need Grants determined through the Commission's recommended methodology.
The Office of Degree Authorization becomes a part of the Commission. This office regulates degree offerings and enforces state laws forbidding use of fraudulent academic degrees.
The ASPIRE (Access to Student assistance Programs in Reach of Everyone) Program is developed as a collaborative project between OSAC and the Oregon Community Foundation to educate students and families about the scholarship application process and options for financing college education.
Doug Collins retires as Executive Director. Elwood (Woody) Farber becomes Executive Director.
The Legislature changes the name of the agency from the Oregon State Scholarship Commission (OSSC) to the Oregon Student Assistance Commission (OSAC). Through passage of House Bill 2993, the Oregon Need Grant is renamed the Oregon Opportunity Grant, effective in 2001.
Woody Farber leaves to become director of the student loan guarantee agency in New Mexico. Patricia Aldworth Becomes Executive Director.
Jeff Svejcar is named Executive Director of OSAC.
Fall 2000 - Report of Special Commission on Financial Aid: Five Principles, Four Recommendations
The final report of the Special Commission on Financial Aid is presented to the House and Senate interim education committees. The report identifies five principles on which to base State of Oregon student financial aid policy
- Five Principles
1. Top priority for student aid should be to reduce the financial burden for lower-income students.
2. Oregon's commitment should be broad and sufficient to provide lower-cost tuition at public universities, provide need-based student assistance for students attending eligible institutions, and provide merit-based scholarships for students attending eligible institutions.
3. Public policies and programs should aim to increase the participation of students of color and lower-income students underrepresented in postsecondary institutions.
4. Public expenditures for any non-need-based scholarship programs should be made in addition to, and not result in the redistribution of, existing resources.
5. Financial assistance to students should not be detrimental to the existing support of public postsecondary institutions in Oregon.
- In addition, the Special Commission made four specific recommendations to strengthen the Oregon Opportunity Grant, Oregon's principal need-based financial aid program:
- Four Recommendations
A. Year-round availability - ensure need-based grants are available to eligible applicants who apply throughout the academic year.
B. Increase awards - increase the size of individual awards to students from an amount equal to 11% of annual student costs to an amount equal to 15% of annual student costs.
C. Equal treatment - equalize the eligibility threshold for students financially dependent on their parents and adult, self-supporting students.
D. Incent students - the State of Oregon should fund non-need-based scholarships to meet State priorities.
2001 Legislative Session
The Oregon Legislature increases the Oregon Opportunity Grant by $5,000,000. Fund for the Oregon Opportunity Grant rises to $44,088,114. The Commission proposes merging Supplemental State Grant Award (SGSA) with the Opportunity Grant. Financial aid community and Legislature agree. All awards for 2001 set at 11% of cost, except those private colleges where combined awards already exceed 11%. For these schools, agreement reached to freeze their awards until their costs rise to bring their percentage to 11%.
- The National Scholarship Providers Association (NSPA) names OSAC the 2001 Scholarship Provider of the Year at the NSPA National Conference. Sherrill Kirchhoff, Scholarship Program Manager, accepts the award for the agency. "OSAC was chosen because of its impressive integration of technology to increase student access and simplify the administration of its programs. OSAC's work in the community - participating in college fairs, financial aid nights, and partnering with organizations to recruit and train volunteers to help students apply for college - and tremendous growth are factors that led to OSAC's selection."
2002 Legislature holds 5 special sessions:
With Oregon's economy in serious decline, 5 special sessions are held and the Legislature sends two issues to the voters. With the passage of BM19 in September 2002 and HB 2536 in February, 2003, the Education Endowment (now Education Stability Fund) is drained of all funds by May, 2003.
- Rising enrollments in the public sector, significant increases in college costs, explosive growth in resident undergraduates applying for aid, and decreased revenue from the Education Endowment Fund leads the Commission to vote to (1) freeze all award amounts, and (2) freeze income cutoffs with the exception of single independent students which are increased from 27% of median family income to 30%.
Funding from the Legislature expands the Oregon Opportunity Grant program to $12 millon over the Governor's balanced budget. As a result, cutoff dates for all segments are extended beyond the traditional March 1st date
ASPIRE receives $85,000 grant to expand its program in rural Southern Oregon from the Ford Family Foundation. Funding from The Oregon Community Foundation, AmeriCorps, and GEAR UP allows the ASPIRE Program to grow as well.
A workgroup put together by the office of Governor Kulongoski decides that the student loan program at OSAC is no longer financially viable. The FFELP program is separated from OSAC. The agency is reorganized and drastically downsized from nearly 100 employees to a staff of 25 employees.
- Jeff Svejcar steps down as Executive Director. Shelley Turner temporarily returns from retirement to be appointed interim Executive Director
2005 Legislative Session
Shelley Turner steps down as Interim Executive Director. Margie Lowe accepts a one-year job rotation from her position at the Department of Human Services to become the Interim Executive Director.
- Transfer of the student loan portfolio occurs in January. On January 31, 2005, all agency positions associated with the student loan program are abolished. All but 4 employees are successfully placed in other state or private sector positions. The agency is reduced to a staff of 25 employees with the remaining functions of Grants & Scholarships, Aspire, Administration, and the Office of Degree Authorization
Dennis Johnson is hired as the new Executive Director.
The Legislative Assembly approves a substantial increase in funding for the OOG using a new methodology called the Shared Responsibility Model. Funds totaling $72 million extend the OOG to more students and increase average awards considerably for the 2008-09 academic year.
- ASPIRE is established in statute as a state program for the first time and receives appropriation of State funds.
- ODA celebrates its tenth anniversary as part of OSAC.
The agency is organized into the following major divisions: Commission, Office of Degree Authorization, Administration, Information Technology, Grants, and Scholarship Access Programs, with a current staff of 34.
The Commission celebrates fifty years of service to students. ASPIRE's 10-year anniversary is celebrated.
OSAC receives U.S. Department of Education College Access Partnership Sub Grant from the Oregon University System to expand ASPIRE from 115 sites to 165. OSAC also receives funding for ASPIRE enhancements from GEAR UP, Oregon Department of Human Services, The Oregon Community Foundation, The Ford Family Foundation, TG Public Benefits Board, and Incight.
Dennis Johnson resigns as Executive Director. Josette Green hired as the new OSAC Executive Director.