Oregon colleges and universities release report recommending increased funding for higher education
A new report commissioned by Oregon’s higher education leaders suggests the state should invest more money in colleges and universities as “central players” to create a stronger economy and make more accessible and affordable colleges.
The Oregon Association of Community Colleges and Oregon Council of Presidents — a group of state university leaders — commissioned the report from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems earlier this year. It cost $235,000, said Dana Richardson, executive director of the president’s council. The two associations and university foundations, including the Oregon Community Foundation and the Ford Family Foundation, paid the bill.
The 97-page ‘Oregon Higher Education Landscape Study’ recommends everything from creating a ‘clear vision’ for Oregon’s future to increasing college affordability for students and collaboration among Oregon institutions.
The report argues that with more funding, Oregon’s colleges and universities would be poised to spur economic innovation and increase the state’s income tax base by moving Oregonians into careers better paid. But Oregon is “hampered by the lack of a clear vision for the state’s future,” the authors wrote. They recommend that political leaders in Oregon develop a statewide economic plan that would set priorities for higher education leaders and capitalize on how colleges can contribute to the growth of the State.
“Colleges and universities are the state’s greatest assets on which to build the new and better Oregon,” the report says, “But it will take more investment — and more targeted investment than the state was so far willing to do.”
Colleges are also in dire financial straits, the report says. Education costs are rising while their tuition isn’t — Oregon’s high school graduate population is expected to remain flat, the report says, but decline in other states where Oregon colleges are recruiting. Oregon allocates less money to its four-year institutions than other states, he says, and has increasingly shifted the burden of school payment onto students.
Schools could provide “better service at lower cost” if they share administrative costs and partner with academic programs, the report says. They could also attract more students by partnering with high schools to support the fall of the state. university feesstates the report, and to improve their own school retention and graduation rates.
But “the bottom line is that tuition revenue alone will not be enough to pay for the investments needed to create a better Oregon,” the authors write.
Increased public funding could make higher education more accessible to students, the report says. Oregon leaders could give more funding to schools in return for a promise to maintain or lower tuition, the report says. And the study found that Oregon’s financial aid model is aimed at recent high school graduates, but doesn’t work well for community college students who are typically older and only study part-time. partiel.
“It is in the state’s interest to ensure that students of all types can afford to attend college and stay there long enough to complete a course of study,” the report said. .
Senator Michael Dembrow, who sits on the Legislature’s joint task force on the success of underrepresented students in higher education, said the report reflects feedback the task force has heard about affordability. and the need to expand support for students. He said the report will help the task force develop recommendations for the 2023 legislature.
“It will help put Oregon’s challenges into a national perspective,” he said. “I think the focus on the connection between Oregon’s workforce and economy comes through very clearly. The only way to meet our workforce needs is to expand to incorporate non-traditional students.
Ben Cannon, executive director of the state Higher Education Coordinating Commission, and commission chair Terry Cross said they were pleased to see the external report aligned with the priorities the commission has already established, including a push for equity and affordability for students.
In a budget request this year, the commission proposed drastic increase in funds for student financial aid and continued funding of a grant that covers the average cost of college for members of Oregon’s federally recognized tribes, both moves toward greater equity and access for Oregon students.
However, budget requests are still in their early stages and will be largely influenced by Oregon’s next governor.
“We hope this (report) will catch the attention of key decision makers,” said Nagi Naganathan, president of the Oregon Institute of Technology and chair of the Council of Presidents. “It’s not just about higher education, it’s about higher education as a catalyst for statewide economic prosperity and social mobility.”
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Sami Edge covers higher education for The Oregonian. You can reach her at [email protected] or (503) 260-3430.