April 10, 2020

Merkley, Wyden Announce Over $116 Million in Aid for College Students

Funding will help cover expenses like course materials, technology, housing, food, health care, and childcare

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden today announced that over $116 million will be distributed among 73 colleges, universities, and community colleges throughout Oregon to provide direct emergency cash grants to college students whose lives and educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus outbreak. The funding will be allocated to colleges and universities who will then determine which students will receive the cash grants.

The funding was secured through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act’s Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, which Congress approved last month. The senators fought to ensure that college students would receive badly-needed relief for unmet financial needs in the legislative package. School allocations are set by a formula that is weighted significantly by the number of full-time students who are Pell-eligible but also takes into consideration the total population of the school and the number of students who were not enrolled full-time online before the coronavirus outbreak.

“Every student—regardless of the color of their skin, their zip code, or their parents’ income—deserves a shot at a great education,” said Merkley. “We can’t let the coronavirus pandemic take that shot away, and that means we have to help our college students survive this unprecedented public health crisis. I’m pleased that this funding will help provide that support, and I’m going to keep fighting for the resources our students need in the upcoming emergency relief legislation.”

“The economic tsunami unleashed by this public health crisis must not end the educational dreams of students working hard in Oregon’s community colleges and four-year colleges and universities,” Wyden said. “I’m glad this assistance for expenses will help these students weather the storm, and I remain determined to keep working to support students pursuing their academic goals across Oregon.”

Previously, Senator Merkley led a group of 22 of his senate colleagues—including Senator Wyden—in urging Senate leadership to include essential support provisions for students, colleges, and universities in the third coronavirus emergency relief bill. The letter cited serious concerns from higher education institutions throughout Oregon that unexpected, coronavirus-related costs, in addition to significant losses of revenue and declined enrollment, could have devastating impacts.  

Senators Merkley and Wyden have also pushed Senate and House leadership to include more funding in upcoming coronavirus emergency relief bills to help K-12 students gain access to adequate home internet connectivity to complete remote learning lessons, and demanded better mobile internet service for low-income Americans affected by the pandemic—including students pursuing a higher education while relying on the internet for lectures and assignments.

“We are grateful Congress quickly acted together to pass the CARES ACT and help students stay in college and complete their training,” said Patty Scott, President of Southwestern Oregon Community College. “Thank you to our Oregon delegation who understands our communities will still need highly skilled workers in health care, education, science and manufacturing when we are beyond the COVID-19 crisis.”

“This funding is extremely important to our students and the University of Oregon. It will help as we make difficult decisions on how to manage huge revenue losses and new costs,” said Michael H. Schill, President of the University of Oregon. “Senator Merkley was the first elected official to call me to ask me how he could help. He immediately understood that both students and the institutions themselves needed help. He is a hero for his leading role in shaping this legislation.”

“Oregon State University greatly appreciates the effective efforts of Oregon Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden for ensuring that the CARES Act provides emergency financial aid funding for our students, and we are pleased that the U.S. Department of Education is moving forward quickly to make these funds available,” said Ed Ray, President of Oregon State University. “The federally-funded emergency financial aid grants will help to provide timely resources for many of our students in need. As we go forward, OSU will continue to work with our senators on efforts to help support our students and university community as we move through this crisis and into recovery.”

“All Oregon students will benefit tremendously from the CARES Act,” said Laurie Chesley, President of Central Oregon Community College. “The relief it provides will allow students to continue on their educational paths, while meeting their basic needs.  Central Oregon Community College is grateful for the strong advocacy of Senators Merkley and Wyden.”

“We are thankful for Sen. Merkley’s advocacy on behalf of our colleges and universities, and his recognition of the hardships facing commerce-reliant communities such as Ashland,” said Linda Schott, President of Southern Oregon University. “We are continuing to provide quality educational opportunities in this spring’s remote format at SOU, but recognize our students’ educational pathways have been sidetracked by this pandemic. We are hopeful that this and future measures by the federal government will help our students maintain their momentum toward futures of purpose and promise.”

“Rogue Community College is grateful for Senator Merkley’s actions in support of our students,” said Cathy Kemper-Pelle, President of Rogue Community College. “A recent survey of RCC students indicated that 72% have experienced some form of food and/or housing insecurity in the past year. The emergency funds available through this act will provide immediate assistance in difficult times.”

“The quick release of this vital funding will mitigate the significant financial pressures experienced by our students and increase our ability as community colleges to serve them,” said Jessica Howard, President of Chemeketa Community College. “Getting these direct grants to students, many of whom support families and are experiencing job loss and food and housing insecurity, will make all the difference as they attempt to continue their education during these uncertain times.”

“BMCC is very thankful for the CARES funds to better support our students during this unprecedented time," said Dennis Bailey-Fougnier, President of Blue Mountain Community College. "We are also so appreciative of Sen. Merkley for his very timely response to the needs of students and community colleges as we shift our way of providing educational services to some of the most vulnerable students in our region.”

The funding, which will be distributed by the Department of Education, will be allocated as follows:



Total Allocations

Minimum Allocations

Blue Mountain Community College





Central Oregon Community College





Chemeketa Community College





Clackamas Community College





Clatsop Community College





Columbia Gorge Community College




Concordia University





Corban University




Eastern Oregon University





George Fox University





Klamath Community College





Lane Community College



Lewis and Clark College



Linfield College



Mount Angel Seminary




Mount Hood Community College





Multnomah University




New Hope Christian College





Oregon College Of Oriental Medicine





Oregon Health & Science University





Oregon Institute Of Technology





Oregon State University





Pacific Northwest College Of Art






Pacific University





Pioneer Pacific College



Portland Community College




Portland State University



Reed College



Southern Oregon University



Southwestern Oregon Community College





Sumner College



Tillamook Bay Community College





Treasure Valley Community College





Umpqua Community College



University Of Oregon





University Of Portland




University Of Western States





Warner Pacific University




Western Oregon University



Western Seminary



Western University Of Health Sciences





Willamette University





Oregon Totals