PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon is home to 17 community colleges, but according to a newly released audit from the Secretary of State’s office, those schools are lagging behind.

Oregon’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission, which started overseeing Oregon’s community colleges in 2015, performed the audit to assess the state of the colleges and find key areas of improvement.

In the report, the HECC noted that since they began monitoring students have been getting degrees at higher rates, and that equity gaps in the colleges have narrowed, but there were a lot of places where improvements could be made.

The HECC listed three areas where improvements needed to be made: student success, student support and college sustainability.

From those three areas, the report gives six recommendations to address the three areas.

  • The first recommendation is to provide more assistance at HECC itself, providing more staff and funding, to “help drive system improvement”
  • The second recommendation focuses on school transparency and data tracking. The HECC said they want to work with state leaders to establish and public success metrics, and also set benchmarks to track how colleges are doing.
  • The third recommendation revolves around whether or not the state adopts performance-based funding. If the state does adopt it, the HECC recommends creating plans to maximize and track benefits and minimize and track negative results. If performance-based funding isn’t adopted, the HECC recommends increasing strategic funds to improve student success and track outcomes.
  • The fourth recommendation addresses the effectiveness of student support systems and academic advising. The audit found that students lacked support in many areas, so the HECC said this recommendation focuses on funding and support of these support programs. It also calls for a report to the Oregon Legislature every two years to share what programs are working and which ones are failing to meet standards.
  • The fifth recommendation is to improve Oregon’s financial aid efforts by working with the government to increase equity.
  • The final recommendation is to report the sustainability status of all community colleges every two years. According to the HECC report, this focuses on tracking financial statuses, expenses and tuition growths and the status of shared services and other steps colleges are taking to be more sustainable.

The report also shows that in 2021-2023, the state spent $700 million on community colleges and that this new request for 2023-2025 is requesting “substantial increases in community college operations and financial aid funding.”

This money goes to supporting the reported roughly 125,000 community college students across Oregon.