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Home > Education > Higher Education in Oregon

Higher Education in Oregon

Old abandoned buildings in Westfall, a small community in remote Malheur County. (Oregon State Archives photo)

Old abandoned buildings in Westfall, a small community in remote Malheur County. (Oregon State Archives Photo)

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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 goals. Oregon’s higher education system in 2014 enrolls hundreds of thousands of students in seven public universities and the Oregon Health & Science University, 17 public community colleges, 67 private colleges and universities, and hundreds of private career and trade schools.

Higher Education Coordinating Commission
Ben Cannon, Executive Director
Address: 775 Court St., NE, Salem 97301-3827
Phone: 503-378-5690

The Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC), a 14-member, volunteer board supported by an executive director, coordinates a network for educational achievement beyond high school. Commission members are Chair Tim Nesbitt (2017), Vice Chair Betty Duvall (2015), Lee Ayers-Proboski (2015), Neil Bryant (2015), Kirby Dyess (2015), Rob Fullmer (2015), Frank Goulard (2015), Anayeli Jimenez (2015), Ramon Ramirez (2016), David Rives (2016), Larry Roper (2017), Carmen Rubio (2017), Lamar Wise (2015) and Duncan Wyse (2016).

Established in 2011, the HECC is responsible for overseeing pathways to postsecondary success from the point at which students complete their secondary educations through their learning, training and mastery of skills in college and career training programs. Oregon enacted significant higher education governance reform in recent years, providing increased autonomy to public universities while establishing the HECC to coordinate postsecondary education in Oregon, including the public universities and community colleges.


Recognizing the importance of higher education as a way of enabling individual opportunity and achieving societal success in an increasingly knowledge-based global economy, the 2011 Legislature established the “40-40-20” goal. The HECC’s goal is to build accessible pathways to opportunity and success for Oregonians, including historically underserved populations, which can be sustained by innovative and high-performing public and private institutions of postsecondary education throughout the state. The commission advises the legislature, the governor, and the OEIB on higher education policy, and its work is focused on four key functions: to broaden the pathways to the 40-40-20 goal; make student pathways accessible, affordable and supportive; steer the higher education enterprise; and cheer the promotion of college completion and career readiness. The commission is also responsible for consolidated state budget development for public postsecondary education, including Oregon’s seven universities and 17 community colleges; oversight of the Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD) and the Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC); state funding allocations and approval of academic programs for community colleges and public universities; the distribution model for the state’s need-based financial aid program (Oregon Opportunity Grant); and approval of missions for public universities, degree authorization for private postsecondary institutions, veterans education and licensure of private career schools.


Office of Private Postsecondary Education (Private Career Schools, Office of Degree Authorization, and Veterans Education)
Through the Office of Degree Authorization (ODA), all Oregon degree granting colleges and universities, whether via distance learning or a local campus, must receive authorization, with the exception of Oregon public colleges and universities and certain non-profit independent colleges and universities with long histories of operation in the state. The ODA is responsible for ensuring the quality of in-state, non-exempt, private higher education programs and out-of-state programs offered to Oregon students. The Private Career Schools unit of the HECC licenses private career schools, establishes business and fiscal standards, and supports career schools in instructional design, educational leadership, technical assistance, and training. Private career schools provide opportunities for students with specific career focuses such as computer technology, cosmetology, health care, real estate and business. The Veterans Education unit is responsible for assuring that the programs approved for the training of veterans are quality programs. The institutions offering these programs include the state-supported colleges and universities, community colleges, private institutions of higher learning and private career schools.


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, Executive Director


The Office of Student Access and Completion (OSAC), formerly the Oregon Student Access Commission, administers a variety of state, federal, and privately funded student financial aid programs for the benefit of Oregonians attending institutions of postsecondary education, including the Oregon Opportunity Grant. OSAC also administers other student outreach programs, such as ASPIRE, and works in partnership with foundations, private individuals, financial institutions, employers, and membership organizations to administer scholarships for the benefit of Oregon students.


The Oregon Opportunity Grant is Oregon’s largest state-funded, need-based grant program for new students planning to go to college and for continuing college students. To apply for the Oregon Opportunity Grant, students and families are encouraged to fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at OSAC also administers more than 450 scholarship funds in partnership with foundations, private donors, and others. Students can access the OSAC Web site to learn more about OSAC programs, search for eligible scholarships, and apply for scholarships online.


Public universities | Community colleges | Related entities