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Oregon's free community college scholarship, which began last year, is encouraging more students to consider going to college and to feel more confident about being able to afford it, according the results of a survey conducted by Education Northwest, a nonprofit research group.

The group surveyed 1,442 young Oregon high school graduates last summer and fall. A majority of respondents who were familiar with the new scholarship program, which is called Oregon Promise, said it helped them see that college could be affordable and that hearing about the program made them think more about going to college.

In addition, nearly a third of respondents who are first-generation college students and Promise recipients said they would not have gone to college without the scholarship.

“Survey responses and stories shared from students demonstrate that individuals feel Oregon Promise has made an impact on their lives by reducing the financial burden of college and making college a possibility,” Michelle Hodara, the study’s lead researcher, said in a written statement. “While this is a first look at how students and educators perceive the program, future research can help identify the broader impact of Oregon Promise on program recipients’ college completion rates and labor market outcomes.”

The scholarship program has been threatened by criticism from leaders of Oregon's public four-year institutions, who said they would prefer more targeted use of state grant aid. Their arguments have been bolstered by a recent report, which found that students from higher-income backgrounds are disproportionately benefiting from the scholarship. Oregon Promise also has money challenges, as its annual cost is expected to more than double from an initial $10 million allocation.