WICHE and Oregon

Partnering for Over Six Decades
Year joined: 


► Tens of thousands of students from Oregon have attended undergraduate, graduate, and professional programs in other Western states through WICHE’s Student Exchange Program, saving millions of dollars in all, thanks to reduced tuition rates. In just one of the programs, the Western Undergraduate Exchange, Oregon students have saved $181.1 million since 1989, when the state joined the program. 

► Oregon has received funding to be part of numerous WICHE policy initiatives, including those focused on financing and financial aid, workforce policy, and other areas.

► Oregon has participated in WICHE initiatives related to distance education, workforce development, and behavioral health.

Return on Investment.

► In 2015-16 Oregon, its institutions, and its students saved or brought in some $15.2 million through WICHE and spent $141,000 for membership in the commission, yielding a 108-fold return on investment.

► In the last 5 years, Oregon savings from WUE alone have totaled more than $60.6 million, yielding a 92-fold return on the state’s investment in WICHE.

Student Savings WUE: 

Programs and Participation.

State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). SARA is a voluntary, nationwide initiative of states that will make distance education courses more accessible to students across state lines and make it easier for states to regulate and institutions to participate in interstate distance education. The effort initially was funded by $3.2 million in grants from Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and is now supported by fees paid by institutions. The initiative is administered by the country’s four regional higher education compacts – the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC), the New England Board of Higher Education (NEBHE), the Southern Regional Education Board (SREB) and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) – and overseen by The National Council for State Authorization Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA). States and institutions that choose to participate agree to operate under common standards and procedures, providing a more uniform and less costly regulatory environment for institutions, more focused oversight responsibilities for states and better resolution of student complaints. Oregon is among the WICHE states that are members of W-SARA in this reciprocal relationship.

Oregon is active in all three WICHE Student Exchange Programs: the Western Undergraduate Exchange, the Professional Student Exchange Program, and the Western Regional Graduate Program. In 2015-16 Oregon’s students and families saved $13.5 million. Oregon saved money, too, through not having to establish and maintain costly programs in a number of areas, including some in healthcare.

Western Undergraduate Exchange. Oregon students have enrolled in undergraduate programs beyond Oregon’s borders through the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) since 1989. In 2015-16, 1,339 students from Oregon were enrolled in out-of-state programs at reduced rates (150 percent of resident tuition), saving $12.1 million in tuition and fees – the average student savings amounted to $9,032. In the last 10 years, students have saved $117.3 million

Oregon benefits from WUE in another way: by receiving students from out of state. Oregon’s institutions can choose how many out-of-state slots to offer and in which areas, allowing them to make the best use of their resources by accepting students in underenrolled programs. There’s a workforce benefit for the state, too, as students often stay in Oregon after graduating. In 2015-16 Oregon received 2,733 students through WUE.

Professional Student Exchange Program. Oregon sent 1,258 students to professional programs through the Professional Student Exchange Program (PSEP), with students studying in a host of critical fields in the health sciences. Currently, Oregon is a PSEP receiving state, with 89 students enrolled in professional programs, bringing in almost $1.7 million in revenue.

Western Regional Graduate Program. Oregon’s postgraduates also participate in graduate programs through the Western Regional Graduate Program (WRGP), which offers access to 380 high-quality, distinctive programs (“distinctive” meaning they’re offered at only four or fewer institutions in the WICHE region) at 60 institutions in all WICHE states. WRGP programs run the gamut, but emerging social, environmental, and resource-management fields are particular strengths, as are innovative interdisciplinary programs. In 2015-16 Oregon sent 93 students to out-of-state institutions, while receiving 79.

The Interstate Passport is an outcomes-based framework for block transfer of lower division general education. Developed by faculty, registrars, institutional researchers, and academic advisors at two- and four-year institutions in seven states (California, Hawaii, North Dakota, Oregon, South Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming), the framework addresses barriers to degree completion posed by uneven transfer policies and practices across states. Institutions in four other WICHE states (Colorado, Idaho, Montana, and New Mexico) and additional states outside the region are involved in its Phase III expansion and scaling efforts to build a nationwide infrastructure supporting friction-free transfer for Passport students. By earning a Passport, students who transfer to another Passport institution will have their learning recognized regardless of differences in course titles and credits, and will not be required to repeat courses to meet general education requirements.  

WICHE’s Added Value.

Oregon gains added value from WICHE’s programs in policy, workforce development, technology, mental health, and other areas.

Policy & Workforce Development.

Oregon has participated in projects supporting better-informed decision making at the state level. WICHE initiatives have been sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Ford Foundation, Lumina Foundation for Education, the U.S. Department of Education, and others. In addition, WICHE policy experts often visit the state to present or consult on a number of vital issues, including the state’s workforce needs and balancing the financial aid portfolio between grants, loans, and scholarships, as well as between merit- and need-based aid. 

Oregon is one of four states participating in the Gates-funded Facilitating Development of a Multistate Longitudinal Data Exchange pilot project, which attempts to enable a more comprehensive regional view of the creation of human capital and its flow among multiple states by exchanging data across K-12 education, postsecondary education, and the workforce. The success of the pilot phase led Gates to fund program expansion, which will allow other states to participate.

The implementation of the Common Core Standards (CCSS) or other similar academic standards is well underway in most states, and the corresponding assessment systems went live this academic year. As implementation continues, there are a variety of challenges that K-12 and higher education leaders will face in the coming years related to student movement across state lines. To begin the conversation about these challenges, WICHE, with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, convened higher education and K-12 leaders from the Western region and additional bordering states in October 2014. Oregon was one of 17 states along with the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands to participate. 

The Adult College Completion (ACC) Network, funded by Lumina Foundation, is a 750-member learning network that unites organizations and agencies working to increase college completion by adults with prior college credits but no degree. Activities include an annual workshop, a webinar series, publications, a listserv, and other resources. The ACC Network and WICHE have become national leaders in the area of adult learners and continue to be an important resource to those who strive to better serve non-traditional students.

The State Higher Education Policy Database (SHEPD) is WICHE’s online searchable database. It provides state and national policymakers, education leaders, practitioners, and education consumers with an inventory of state-level policies and resources in key policy issue areas related to access and success in higher education. It contains a blog and an electronic SHEPD alert distribution list to keep subscribers current on important updates. A related resource is the Policy Publications Clearinghouse, a depository of publications, reports, and briefs related to higher education. 

Additionally, the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission, Eastern Oregon University, Oregon State University, Pacific University, Portland State University, and University of Oregon are members of the Western Academic Leadership Forum (the Forum), whose members address regional higher education issues and engage in cooperative resource sharing. The Western Alliance for Community College Academic Leaders (the Alliance), brings academic leaders of community colleges and technical schools and systems together with state governing and coordinating boards associated with two-year institutions to exchange ideas and information, share resources and expertise, and collaborate on regional initiatives. Central Oregon Community College, Chemeketa Community College, Mount Hood Community College, the Oregon Department of Community Colleges and Workforce Development, Portland Community College, Southwestern Oregon Community College, Treasure Valley Community College, and Umpqua Community College are members.


Several Oregon colleges and universities are active participants in the WICHE Cooperative for Educational Technologies (WCET), the leader in the practice, policy, and advocacy of technology-enhanced learning in higher education. WCET is widely recognized as one of the most informative, reliable, and forward-thinking organizations regarding the role of technology and innovation in higher education. Our growing membership includes more than 350 institutions, state and system-wide higher education agencies, nonprofit organizations, government agencies, and corporations in nearly all U.S. states and many Canadian provinces. WCET member institutions actively serve more than 4 million college students taking all or part of their academic programs via technology. WCET members have access to trusted information on emerging trends, policies, and exemplars of successful learning technology innovation in practice. Key WCET activities include an annual meeting, leadership summits, national webcasts, and email list-based discussions among members. Major topics of interest to the WCET membership include student success, faculty success, managing e-learning, emerging technologies and evolving policy issues.

Mental Health.

WICHE is working collaboratively with the Oregon State Hospital to build an APA-accredited psychology internship program. In 2015, OSH will matriculate its first cohort of psychology interns. During the next year, WICHE will support the completion of an internship self-study and prepare the program for an accreditation site visit in the 4th quarter of FY16. Additionally, this past year, WICHE assisted OSH in its response to a sentinel event at the hospital. Oregon has been very active in the Western States Decision Support Group, which is a learning community for program evaluators in public behavioral health systems across the WICHE West.

Other Initiatives.

Lewis & Clark College, Reed College, and Willamette University are members of the Master Property Program (MPP), which helps institutions reduce their insurance premiums and improve their coverage. Created by the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC) in 1994 and expanded to the WICHE region in 2004, the MPP includes more than 160 campuses with total insured values of over $103 billion. It has generated over $94.7 million in savings for the participating institutions while expanding their insurance coverage. WICHE is also partnering with MHEC to offer MHECare, a new health program providing vetted, competitively priced medical benefits for students. Underwritten by UnitedHealthcare StudentResources, MHECare offers a variety of plans. In a third collaboration with MHEC, WICHE extends the benefits of MHECtech to colleges and universities in the West, enabling them to purchase from competitively bid purchasing agreements to reduce costs on a range of hardware and software products and services.

Former commissioners: 

Former Commissioners.

Tim Nesbitt, consultant and columnist; James Sager, superintendent, Northwest Regional Education Service District; Diane Vines, associate professor, School of Nursing, University of Portland; George E. Richardson, Jr., former manager of federal and local government relations and community affairs at NW Natural, Portland; Nicki Harrington, former president, Blue Mountain Community College; Roger Bassett, member, State Board of Education; and Loren Wyss, president of the Wyss Foundation.

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