[caption id="attachment_140086" align="aligncenter" width="5184"] Lawmakers debate bills in the Oregon House of Representatives at the state Capitol in Salem, Ore. (AP Photo/Jonathan J. Cooper)
Oregon will likely become the second state in the nation to offer free community college thanks to a last-minute bill passed by legislators this week.
State Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton) sponsored the bill, saying that a lot of needy students who might attend community college are missing out on federal grants that could pay for much of their education.
His legislation offers them an incentive to do so, the Willamette Week reported.
If eligible students apply for and receive federal grants for community college, Oregon will pay the balance of their tuition. The recipients must have lived in Oregon for 12 months, begin their community college course work within six months of finishing high school or the equivalent, take courses that are required for graduation and maintain a 2.5 grade point average. (And it's not entirely free—each student must pay a minimum of $50 per term.
"A lifetime of food stamps is much more expensive than the annual community college tuition of $3,000," Hass told his fellow lawmakers, urging them to pass the bill.
The bill received significant bipartisan support.
If the bill is signed into law, Oregon will begin its program in 2016. Program expenditures will be capped at $10 million per year.