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HECC Collaborations

___________________________
Updates from the State of Oregon's 
Higher Education Coordinating Commission

SEPTEMBER 2020

Addressing Emergency Needs and Long-term Resilience 

Message from Executive Director Ben Cannon

The fall term is beginning, and we welcome the students, educators, and staff across our postsecondary education and training landscape who are new or returning to school, whether in-person or remotely, under extraordinary circumstances. So many of you are simultaneously rising to meet the challenges of numerous crises: unprecedented wildfires, the global pandemic, structural racism and deep inequities in postsecondary education, and an economic recession that threatens to sharpen existing inequities across racial/ethnic and economic lines. In the midst of this confluence of challenges, we hear stories daily of Oregon students and educators' perseverance, creativity, and success. We believe in you, and we believe in the incredible potential of postsecondary education and training to equip you and your communities to emerge strong for the future.

Our hearts go out to all who have been impacted by the terrible wildfires our state has endured. If you or people you know are seeking information, please access wildfire.oregon.gov, a state resource hub that includes information on disaster aid, emergency housing, key links and alerts. I extend special gratitude toward the firefighters and first responders, and all who have responded quickly across our communities to assist evacuees. The HECC and our institutional partners have contributed swiftly to this response, from supporting the many firefighters across the state who are also college students, to connecting dislocated workers from fire areas with resources and job opportunities, to leveraging volunteer power, to opening facilities for evacuees. At the same time, we continue to act urgently in response to the multi-layered impacts of COVID-19: engaging colleges and universities on public health standards to the health of our communities as the fall academic year begins, providing rapid response resources to Oregonians experiencing layoffs, responding to evolving workforce needs, and more. I'm pleased to report that, thanks to the Governor's leadership, HECC is currently working on administering $10 million in federal emergency funding to support students facing hardships resulting from the pandemic, and to support implementation of online learning at public institutions. 

While this issue of our newsletter is focused on our many roles in crisis response, we are also focused on our long term obligation to equitably serve all Oregonians, and to fund higher education and training at a level to do so. You can learn more in this newsletter about a landmark step in the state postsecondary education and workforce training budgeting process, the completion of the HECC's Agency Request Budget for the 2021-23 biennium. You can also access here the latest reports showing the critical work our public university colleges of education are doing to foster equity and diversity in the K-12 educator workforce. During a time of overlapping crises that threaten to deepen existing inequities in our education landscape, it is more important than ever that we make intentional equity-based funding, leadership, and policy decisions. We look forward to engaging many of you in coming months as we work together to support the critical role postsecondary education and training can play in Oregon's resilience and recovery.

I wish you and your loved ones continued health, safety, and strength. 

Sincerely,

Ben Cannon

HECC and partners respond to wildfire emergency needs

From supporting student firefighters, to housing evacuees, to counseling displaced workers, higher education and workforce partners have played a significant role in responding to the wildfire emergency response and recovery.  

At the request of the Governor, Oregon’s colleges and universities are working on strategies to ensure the many firefighters in Oregon who are also college students can continue fighting fires as the academic year begins, and not be penalized for missing school. Doug Grafe, ODF Chief of Fire Protection, recently reported in a press briefing that approximately 30 percent of Oregon’s firefighters are soon expected to return to classes at our universities or community colleges.
 
In addition, the HECC Office of Workforce Investments (OWI) has mobilized to reach dislocated workers from fires zones with key resources. They held two virtual sessions on Dislocated Workers Resources this week for workers impacted by the Beachie Creek/Santiam fires, and plan to hold additional virtual information sessions in the future. OWI is deploying staff for in-person outreach at the FEMA emergency sites for evacuees, laptops in hand, to help Oregonians access services, and pursuing additional federal funds with which to provide assistance to affected individuals.  
 
As the state's service commission, Oregon Volunteers (OV) is positioned to connect community needs with both local and partner national service resources, and OV staff are already working to connect organizations needing assistance with teams in several wildfire-affected counties. Oregon Volunteers, housed in the HECC, is a responding agency in the Office of Emergency Management’s (OEM) disaster response plan, and a member of the Oregon Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (ORVOAD). OV is handling local coordination of requests for Pacific Region AmeriCorps teams to assist with short and long-term disaster recovery. These teams can be deployed in Oregon communities to assist with sheltering needs, resource distribution, volunteer and donation management, debris removal, food distribution and other response and recovery-related tasks within their scope. Visit OV's website here for information on safe volunteering during COVID-19Register here to volunteer with OEM/ORVOAD for crisis response and recovery. To request more information on national service resources available during a disaster, email OV AmeriCorps Program Officer Stephanie Solomon, or OV Director Carie Bauer

Many colleges and universities have also responded to the crisis by providing temporary housing on an emergency basis to those displaced by the wildfires. The community of Southern Oregon University was especially impacted by the devastating fires in the neighboring towns Phoenix and Talent, and they mobilized in numerous ways, hosting temporary emergency shelter for employees and students displaced from their homes, offering a site for daytime respite and support for community members who needed a hospitable indoor air-conditioned facility, and more. Numerous other colleges and universities also stepped up to offer their facilities. For example, Clackamas Community College served as a base camp for up to 250 firefighters from all over the state, and served as a Red Cross evacuation site, and Portland State University offered its University Place hotel to employees and students who needed temporary housing. Institutions have also set up relief fund drives and allowed student and employee evacuees in campers to use their parking lots. We thank all our partners who have responded generously to community needs in real time. 

Emergency funds will directly support students and quality of online learning

Students struggling financially as a result of the pandemic and institutions needing resources for quality online learning will soon have added assistance. The HECC is pleased to report that $10 million of the federal Governor’s Emergency Education Relief (GEER) Funds for Oregon has been approved to support the urgent needs of postsecondary education students impacted by the pandemic. These emergency funds are intended to support equitable student outcomes and innovative approaches to overcoming barriers that have been exacerbated by the impact of COVID-19. 

The funding will be distributed in two categories: 1) student grants and 2) implementation of online learning. The HECC is developing a plan to distribute $6 million to public institutions so they can provide direct financial relief to students impacted by COVID-19 through emergency grants, with a focus on supporting underserved students who did not receive support during the CARES relief package earlier this year. With the remaining $4 million, HECC will support public higher education institutions in improving the quality of and access to courses delivered in an online or a remote environment. 

In biennial budget request, HECC prioritizes affordability, equity, and the role of postsecondary education and workforce in economic recovery

The HECC has approved and submitted to the Department of Administrative Services a comprehensive and integrated budget request for Oregon’s 2021-2023 biennial investments in the state's postsecondary education and training programs statewide. As part of the state budget process, HECC develops an Agency R​equest Budget (ARB) in close collaboration with Oregon’s public campuses and partners, the first step in a multi-year budget process resulting in Oregon’s biennial investments in the higher education and workforce enterprise. The next key step will be the release of the Governor's Recommended Budget, generally released in December.

Protecting college affordability, promoting equitable student success outcomes, and supporting the critical role of postsecondary education and training in economic recovery are some key themes in the Agency Budget Request (ARB), presented and approved at the HECC August 11 public meeting.   The recommendations for increased funding above current service level (CSL) would:
  • Significantly expand need-based financial aid to Oregonians under a restructured program model that puts an increased focus on financial need and more flexibility for adults seeking shorter term training. (POP 101, $289.2M)
  • Support college affordability at the seven public universities through a stable foundation of state funding, allowing the institutions to keep tuition increases below five percent at most institutions, and to support equity and student success. (POP, $22.5M)
  • Support college affordability at the 17 community colleges through a stable foundation of state funding, allowing the institutions to keep tuition increases below 3.5 percent on average, and to support equity and student success. (POP 301, $32.9M)
  • Support equitable outcomes at Oregon community colleges through a new competitive Innovative Grant program (POP 303, $35M) 
  • Support state-funded bonding for prioritized capital projects at the institutions (POPs 304 and 305).
  • Modernize the Financial Aid Management Information System (FAMIS), the primary technology the agency uses to administer financial aid programs to Oregonians, which is 40 years old, and has substantial security risks and process inefficiencies. (POP 401, $5M)
  • Fund additional initiatives focused on expanding workforce opportunities, improving streamlined and innovative approaches to learner pathways, equitably serving underserved and adult learner populations, and agency needs:
The proposal represents the results of analysis and discussion on key budget items over the course of numerous public meetings from February through August. The complete ARB document is posted on our website. In conjunction with the development of the ARB, the agency has developed a number of legislative concepts for possible introduction as 2021 legislative bills.  

HECC's continued crisis response to the pandemic is multi-faceted

Pandemic Response: Public Health Guidelines

As we begin the academic year, the teaching and learning environments across Oregon colleges and universities have been transformed to promote safety across our campus communities, with increased use of remote and distance learning, physical distancing, and limited access to campus facilities for the public.   The HECC continues working closely with Oregon public and private institutions, in partnership with the Oregon Health Authority and the Governor, to communicate and clarify the public health standards all Oregon colleges and universities must follow for any in-person operations at public and private colleges statewide. Under the current state standards, each public or private Oregon college and university has the flexibility to determine how and when students return to campus, but must meet, at a minimum, the public health requirements contained in the guidance.  As we focus on health and safety, we have also urged institutions to utilize the Governor’s Equity Framework for Pandemic Response.   

Pandemic Response: Workforce Needs

The HECC Office of Workforce Investments (OWI) has undertaken extensive work to mitigate challenges for workers and employers impacted by COVID-19 and the wildfires.   The OWI works with the Oregon Employment Department, partner agencies, and community-based organizations to coordinate Rapid Response services supporting affected workers and businesses during reported layoffs. Through these partnerships, Oregon’s COVID-19 and Unemployment Insurance resources and information are now available in fifteen languages. The OWI continues to support businesses and Oregon’s nine Local Workforce Development Boards in their service by securing $6M in new federal grant dollars to support dislocated workers, keeping local boards and workforce partners informed of opportunities, distributing layoff aversion funds to help businesses stay open or minimize the length of time employees are out of work, researching the workforce outlook for industries affected by the pandemic, and more.     

Pandemic Response: Oregon Volunteers

The COVID-19 pandemic prompted swift response from many AmeriCorps programs funded by Oregon Volunteers (OV), the state service commission in Oregon.   Across the state, AmeriCorps members have pivoted to pandemic response and recovery, through activities such as food distribution, online tutoring and mentoring, and supporting teachers in virtual classrooms. Approximately 196 members are serving in 85 organizations across Oregon. Visit OV's website here for information on safe volunteering during COVID-19Register here to volunteer with OEM/ORVOAD for crisis response and recovery.    
 

The HECC agency embraces new work modes during the pandemic, while consolidating offices at one location

In conjunction with state agency guidelines, the 127 employees of the HECC continue to work primarily through a telework environment to help limit spread of the coronavirus. While our office remains physically closed to the public, our services continue strong. Staff continue to be available through email, phone, and online, and our public meetings are all held by video. Ramona Rodamaker, Deputy Director for the HECC, said, "Our work requires a high degree of collaboration, productivity, and engagement with partners, and our employees have adjusted amazingly well to our new mode of primarily remote work. We are embracing technology in new ways to facilitate our collaborative work for Oregonians."

While our daily work and services are primarily remote, our mailing address and physical office has changed in the last few months. Before the pandemic began, HECC was already planning the consolidation of our previous two Salem offices in a new single Salem location. We officially made this move over the summer, and our address is now 3225 25th Street SE Salem, Oregon 97302​. In addition, our Eugene office, which has for years been the headquarters of the Office of Student Access and Completion, has physically relocated to the Salem office effective September 21, 2020. In addition to the long-term cost savings of this consolidation, we are very pleased to house all HECC offices and employees in one shared space.  

Legislative updates: COVID-19 updates and 2020-2021 budget cuts

Updates on Return to School: During this week's Legislative Days, Ben Cannon, executive director of the HECC, joined state education leaders in presenting to the September 21 meeting of the Senate Interim Committee on Education and the September 22 meeting of the House Interim Committee on Education to share key information on the the start of the academic year during the pandemic.

Budget Reductions for 2020-21: The August 10 Special Legislative Session was almost exclusively dedicated to budget issues related to the coronavirus and associated economic downturn, and several budget cuts were made to postsecondary education programs for 2020-21. Notably, the major operating funds for the community colleges and universities were not reduced. Commission chair David Rives sent the attached letter of gratitude to legislative leadership for protecting these core funds.

However, over $9.2 million in reductions for 2020-21 were made to financial aid and statewide programs in the HECC budget summarized here, including a $3.6M reduction to the Oregon Promise which serves recent high school graduates and GED completers at all income levels with grants to support community college tuition. Unfortunately, to meet this reduced budget, the HECC Office of Student Access and Completion was required to revoke awards from approximately 1,000 new, first-year students whose Estimated Family Contributions (EFCs) were above $22,000. HECC was able to maintain awards for over 15,000 new and renewal students planning on pursuing community college in Oregon this fall.

Teacher preparation programs at public universities develop plans to increase the diversity of the teacher candidate pool  

Preparing a diverse teacher workforce fully equipped to equitably serve Oregon’s diverse youth pipeline has been a priority of educator preparation programs at colleges and universities, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and our partners at the Educator Advancement Council (EAC) and Teacher Standards and Practices Commission (TSPC). In 2020, the movement for racial justice, the disproportionate impact of the pandemic on underserved communities, the shift to remote learning across many of our education environments, and more, have sharpened our focus even more on the critical role of preparing teachers for today’s challenges and opportunities.

For six years, in accordance with ORS 342.447, public educator preparation programs at six Oregon public universities have produced Educator Equity plans, collaborating and engaging in biennial planning, tracking, and reporting on progress in educator equity for Oregon. We are pleased to report that over the course of several recent public meetings, the HECC approved the 2020-2022 Educator Equity Plans for each of these public educator preparation programs: Eastern Oregon University planOregon State University planPortland State University planSouthern Oregon University planUniversity of Oregon plan, and Western Oregon University plan.  

Educator equity refers to the state goal that the teacher candidate pool will reflect the linguistic and ethnic diversity of the high school graduating class from which they are recruited. The Educator Equity Report, in accordance with ORS 342.448, has come to represent a call to action and an annual benchmark for the state related to each stage of talent development in the educator pathway to more closely mirror the demographics of the Pre-K12 student population. In the latest Educator Equity Report (2019) the percentage of ethnically diverse high school graduates was 34% (five year cohort in 2017-2018, p.25) and the percentage of ethnically diverse candidates in educator preparation programs (public and private) was 26%. 

The strategic focus on diverse candidate retention in educator preparation programs is a shared priority for the 2020-2022 planning cycle. Just a few examples of retention focused activities include: establishing cohorts, paid practicums or other strategies to integrate the processes of recruitment, retention, and placement; reviewing curriculum and assessment practices for cultural relevance and bias; and convening diverse strategic advisory groups to guide decisions. Also new in 2020, the public educator preparation programs are receiving an infusion of funding to support the strategies and activities described in the educator equity plans. Through the Statewide Education Initiatives Account (HB 3427, Section 48), each program is set to receive just over $80,000 to support the implementation of 2020 approved plans.  

The HECC, EAC, and TSPC continue to work together in our shared responsibility for equitable teacher recruitment, retention and graduation, supporting the teachers who will shape the future.   
 

New commissioners appointed to HECC

We are pleased to report that today, September 25, the Oregon Senate confirmed Governor Brown's recent nominations of Helen Edwards and Ricardo Lujan-Valerio to voting positions on the Higher Education Coordinating Commission. Effective October 1, 2020, Helen Edwards will fill the vacant voting position formerly held by Tayo Akins. Effective December 1, 2020, Ricardo Lujan-Valerio will fill the at-large seat currently held by Carmen Rubio. We are delighted to welcome Commissioner Edwards and Commissioner Lujan-Valerio, and look forward to introducing these new commissioners in full in our October newsletter, and at upcoming public meetings.

HECC joins national equity training initiative for adult basic skills and CTE programs

The HECC Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development (CCWD), responsible for federally funded initiatives for Career and Technical Education CTE and adult basic skills (ABS), is pleased to be accepted into the National Alliance for Partnership’s in Equity's (NAPE) Equity Leadership Academy. As one of ten cohort states accepted, Oregon's cohort will have the opportunity to lead CTE and ABS programs supported by federal Perkins V funding with equity as the focal point, fostering more equitable educational outcomes for our most vulnerable students. The academy is a no-cost benefit, providing equity training focused on NAPE’s Pilot Program Improvement Process for Equity (PIPE), technical assistance, and capacity-building. Congratulations to the CCWD team!

HECC administrator Donna Lewelling appointed to national board of Advance CTE

Congratulations to Donna Lewelling, Deputy Director of the HECC Office of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, for her recent appointment to the national board of Advance CTE. Advance CTE is the longest-standing national non-profit that represents State Directors and state leaders responsible for secondary, postsecondary and adult Career Technical Education (CTE) across all 50 states and U.S. territories. In her role as Deputy Director of CCWD, among other responsibilities, Donna Lewelling leads HECC’s  partnership with the Oregon Department of Education (ODE) to coordinate the postsecondary education of career and technical education programs across Oregon supported by the U.S. Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV).

HECC joins partners in National Governor's Association Learning Lab on Responsive Work-based Systems

At the beginning of September, an Oregon team comprising representatives from the HECC, Oregon Department of Education, Governor’s Office, and Workforce and Talent Development Board kicked off its participation in the National Governors Association’s Learning Lab on Responsive Work-based Learning Systems: Adjusting to COVID-19 and Preparing for Sustainability. Over the next six months, the team will take part in virtual monthly cohort meetings and receive technical assistance from NGA staff and mentor states as they work to strengthen and expand work-based learning equitably in Oregon.
www.oregon.gov/highered
Academic program approvals 

At its August Commission meetings, the Commission approved the following academic programs at Oregon’s public colleges and universities: Blue Mountain Community College: Certificate, Medical Assisting; AAS, Industrial Systems Technology; Chemeketa Community College, Certificate, Computer Information Systems; Klamath Community College, AAS, Lab Technician; Western Oregon University, B.S. in Economics and Mathematics. For more information, see the August 13, 2020 HECC public meeting materials here.
PARTNER NEWS

Governor convenes Racial Justice Council: Governor Kate Brown on September 16 announced convening the first meeting of the Racial Justice Council to address systemic racism in Oregon. The Council is an advisory group to the Governor with subgroups focused on criminal justice reform and police accountability, health equity, economic opportunity, housing and homelessness, environmental equity, and education. The council will provide principles and recommendations that center racial justice and economic recovery to the Governor to inform the 2021-2023 Governor’s Recommended Budget and legislative agenda.

ODE "All Students Belong" rule prohibits hate symbols: The Oregon Department of Education (ODE) announced in a press release  on September 18 that the agency has filed a temporary administrative rule that focuses on the health and safety of our students and educators by creating a safer and more inclusive school climate. The Board of Education unanimously passed the All Students Belong temporary rule to prohibit the use of hate symbols in schools and to establish requirements for anti-bias incidents at a district level. 

New Education Northwest Report: Career and Technical Education in Oregon: Exploring Who Participates in High School and the Outcomes They Achieve By Amy Arneson, Michelle Hodara, and Steve Klein, Regional Education Laboratory Northwest, 2020. This study summarizes the secondary career and technical education (CTE) landscape in Oregon under its last CTE state plan, which was implemented under the federal Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act of 2006 (Perkins IV), and it provides baseline information to guide implementation of Oregon's updated state plan under Perkins V.

The Alliance elects leadership: The Board of Trustees of the Oregon Alliance of Independent Colleges and Universities (“The Alliance”) announced in a recent press release the election of Dr. Miles K. Davis, President of Linfield University, as its new Chair, and Dr. Lesley Hallick, President of Pacific University, as Vice Chair.

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