Audit calls for greater scrutiny of community colleges
Monday, December 19, 2022
Oregon must turn more attention to improving community colleges’ performance, a secretary of state’s office audit released Monday says.
“Our community colleges are important gateways for students from lower-income families, for older and rural students, for working parents, for workers needing retraining,” Secretary of State Shemia Fagan said in a news release. “They are also crucial for Oregon’s economy.”
The audit offers an in-depth look at key student and school data and compares Oregon with other states. The office last audited community colleges in 2015, the same year the Higher Education Coordinating Commission began overseeing the system. This audit focuses on the HECC’s ability to monitor a decentralized system that retains significant decision-making for local boards.
Oregon has 17 community colleges serving roughly 125,000 students, many of them from nontraditional student backgrounds and historically underserved communities. The audit found that although student outcomes have improved since 2015, Oregon’s student success lags other states, student support services are inequitable and insufficient, and falling enrollment challenges colleges’ sustainability.
The HECC struggles to address these issues because it needs more staff and authority, the audit says, and it recommends the governor and Legislature give the HECC additional power and direction.
The audit recommends the HECC improve the system’s transparency and data use, evaluate the effectiveness of student support programs, and analyze funding-related issues.