Friday, August 29, 2014

Oregon AG fires back in PERS legal challenge

Oregonian
August 27th, 2014

Two bills passed in the Oregon Legislature last year were not a breach of contract with government employees because they cut benefits under the Public Employees Retirement System that were never written into contracts at all, according to the brief the State of Oregon filed before the Oregon Supreme Court earlier this week.
The brief was filed along with four others, all of which argued that Senate Bills 822 and 861 were legal even though they reduced the cost-of-living adjustments for current and future PERS retirees.
Both reduced the COLA for retirees in the PERS system, and SB 822 also ended a payment originally meant to compensate out-of-state retirees paying Oregon state income taxes.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Portland Community College issued No. 5 most 2-year degrees among U.S. community colleges

Oregonian
August 25th, 2014

Portland Community College awarded 4,200 associate degrees in 2012-13, the fifth most of any community college in the country, according to the national trade publication Community College Week.
That represented a mammoth 30 percent increase in degrees issued by PCC in a single year. During 2011-12, the multi-campus community college that is Oregon's largest higher education institution issued about 3,740 degrees and ranked No. 11 among two-year colleges nationally.
The huge increase allowed PCC to leapfrog community colleges in El Paso, Tampa and Salt Lake that used to outproduce it.

A Fiscal Reckoning for Oregon's 'Pay It Forward'

Forbes
August 20th, 2014

Remember Oregon’s “Pay It Forward” plan? Students would attend college with no upfront tuition charges and instead pay a small share of their earnings after they left school for about 20 years. In essence the plan was a new way to channel revenue to higher education. It levied a graduate tax on anyone who used public higher education and then earmarked those revenues right back to funding more higher education.
The idea is quite elegant, but it has a major financial blind spot—one that got the better of many advocates and the press as they gushed over the idea. This month, Pay It Forward suffered a serious setback after the panel charged with conducting a feasibility study of the plan realized that the state of Oregon cannot bend the laws of public finance. As such, Pay It Forward would be expensive and probably isn’t going anywhere. For 4,000 annual enrollees, Pay it Forward would need fresh cash each year for 20 years, peaking at $20 million a year. Two decades in, the plan would then flip to surplus.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Oregon State, Reed are Oregon's best colleges, Washington Monthly says

Oregonian
August 26th, 2014

Oregon State University's is Oregon's best big research university, ranking No. 78 nationally, according to rankings of colleges by Washington Monthly that the magazine claims is "aren't ridiculous" like many other rankings.
Oregon State ranked high for admitting lots of low-income students, giving reasonable financial aid to students from families making less than $75,000 and getting a high proportion of its students to graduate.
Washington Monthly's ranking system is based chiefly on whether a college helps low- and moderate-income students get ahead, does lots of research and promotes public service. Oregon State's rating was boosted by the fact that a lot of its students join the Peace Corps or the Reserve Officers Training Corps.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Biological networking

Register Guard
August 25th, 2014

On a February day in 1953, after 23-year-old James Watson and 36-year-old Francis Crick made the momentous discovery of the double helix mechanism of inheritance, they went to Eagle Pub near campus in Cambridge, England, where Crick declared:
“We found the secret of life.”
Without a doubt, the discovery was world changing. But Crick’s declaration was premature, as 51 years of work by geneticists, microbiologists, molecular geneticists and evolutionary biologists has made clear.
If the human genome were a car, researchers have identified, labeled and laid out all the parts — spark plug, brake pad, ignition switch — but they still don’t know how to make the car drive, said Patrick Phillips, a University of Oregon biology researcher and professor.
“We’re getting pretty good now at identifying one mutation that causes one problem, but most of the challenges in biology now are due to complex things,” he said.
The continuing disappointment is that — despite the mountains of accumulated knowledge about genetics since Watson and Crick — researchers have yet to identify the genetic basis for most diseases.
Now, scientists are looking for the answers in “biological networks” and the UO is on “the bleeding edge” of the research, said Bill Cresko, UO biology researcher and assistant professor.

OHSU's Anonymous $100 Million Donor is One Tough Mother

Willamette Week
August 20th, 2014


On July 28, Oregon Health & Science University announced a $100 million contribution from an anonymous donor.
WW has learned that anonymous donor is Gert Boyle, the chairwoman of Columbia Sportswear whose role in the "one tough mother" advertising campaign brought the company widespread attention.
Boyle, 90, owns Columbia stock worth more than $400 million, according to the company's most recent annual report.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Oregon's tuition-free 'Pay It Forward' college finance plan appears dead

Oregonian
August 15th, 2014

Oregon's attention-getting proposal to offer students tuition-free college if they agree to repay a small portion of their earnings for years afterward got the official thumbs down from Oregon's higher education board this week.
The panel said Oregon has much more important things to spend its money on, including a huge expansion of need-based financial aid and bolstering  community college and university operations, than to launch a ground-breaking but potentially unworkable tuition-free "Pay It Forward" plan.
It would be fine for Oregon to test out the idea with a small pilot program -- but the Legislature should only do so if it finds extra money to pay for it, not at the expense of those higher-priority initiatives, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission's budget panel concluded. Allowing 4,000 students to try it out would cost the state $5 million to $20 million a year for more than 20 years, proponents found.
That doesn't mean Pay It Forward, a concept originally proposed by Portland State University students that grabbed national headlines, is dead, said Ben Cannon, executive director of the commission. The commission will give the Legislature a report next month, as required, spelling out how a trial version of Pay It Forward would work and recommending that the state try it, if it somehow finds the necessary millions.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Report: Oregon needs statewide retirement plan

Statesman Journal
August 15th, 2014

The state should create a retirement fund available to all employed Oregonians that can follow people as they change jobs, according to a draft report released this month by the Oregon Legislature's Task Force on Oregon Retirement Savings.
The official report will not come out until September, but the draft outlines the plan.
The key elements of a statewide plan would be:
  • Availability to anyone employed in Oregon, both full time and part time, no matter the size of the company they work for.
  • Deposits into the fund would be automatically deducted from paychecks, but employees could opt out of participating.
  • Employers would not be required to contribute anything. However, they would have to provide enrollment paperwork.
  • Each employee would have an individual account (akin to a 401(k) or Roth IRA account) with regular statements that would follow them between jobs and employers.
  • The accounts would belong in one pooled fund, invested by private fund managers but overseen by a state-appointed board.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Oregon education board assesses itself -- and comes up disappointed

The Oregonian
August 13th, 2014

Oregon's overarching education board, handpicked by Gov. John Kitzhaber to try to overcome the state's educational mediocrity, on Tuesday sized up where the board stands after three years in operation -- and expressed a lot of discontent.
The Oregon Education Investment Board controls almost no money and doesn't have much authority. The public either overestimates the board's power, members said, or doesn't know the board exists, let alone what its mission is (to better coordinate early childhood programs, public schools and public higher education to get 80 percent of Oregonians to earn college credentials).
And that's not all. The board's meetings and directives don't always focus on the central mission, they said. The board's work has yet to improve any significant student outcomes. Turnover by agency staff and sporadic attendance by some members has hampered progress. The board doesn't effectively communicate with the public and lacks a welcoming way to get public input on key issues.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

A clean but costly break

Register Guard
August 12th, 2014


The University of Oregon’s new Board of Trustees completed its first high-profile piece of business last week, accepting UO President Michael Gottfredson’s sudden resignation and then voting unanimously to give him a $940,000 severance package. The generosity of the parting gift raises both eyebrows and questions, including whether the old state Board of Higher Education would have handled the matter differently.
Gottfredson quit with one day’s notice. Most people who do that get a cardboard box and a suggestion that they not bother asking for a letter of recommendation. In the case of a voluntary resignation, which Board Chairman Chuck Lillis insists it was, the university was under no obligation to pay Gottfredson anything.
Gottfredson was employed by the UO not only as president, but also as a member of the university faculty. He was on unpaid leave from his faculty position while fulfilling his presidential duties. It’s conceivable that Gottfredson could have quit the $540,000-a-year presidency to join the ranks of the active faculty at a salary of $360,003 a year.

Monday, August 11, 2014

David Sarasohn: Oregon universities pivot to meet the future

The Oregonian
August 11th, 2014

Until the Oregon State Board of Higher Education slipped quietly out of existence this summer, Matt Donegan spent five years on it, the last three as chairman. But talking about higher education and economic development recently, the first institution he mentioned was the University of Washington.
When he listens to other Oregon businessmen talk about higher ed, he "can hear a lot of envy of what UW has been able to accomplish."
Seeing how that's happened, of course, doesn't take five years close study of the Oregon system. "It doesn't seem that Oregon was looking ahead the way Washington was looking ahead," says Donegan. While Washington invested in its research universities "In Oregon, we did not place those bets."

Friday, August 8, 2014

New University of Oregon interim president, Scott Coltrane, 'respected by the faculty'

The Oregonian
August 8th, 2014

 The chairman of the University of Oregon's Board of Trustees said Thursday that UO Provost Scott Coltrane was chosen as interim president because he is a respected academic liked by the UO faculty.
Coltrane replaces Michael Gottfredson, who stepped down Thursday a day after submitting his resignation.
UO Board Chairman Chuck Lillis said it was "really important" to choose an interim leader such as Coltrane to deliver "continuity by someone who is respected by the faculty and is a proven faculty person and scholar."

University of Oregon's new board wants a president of its own choosing who is an academic star

The Oregonian
August 8th, 2014

The University of Oregon's newly empowered Board of Trustees wants to put its stamp on the university by hiring a president of its own choosing, and President Michael Gottfredson was "very gracious" in agreeing to step down early to allow a new leader to take over, the chairman of the board said Thursday.
The board expects it will take a year to hire the kind of standout academic and superstar leader it wants as the next president for the UO, said Chuck Lillis, the board chairman. In the meantime, UO Provost Scott Coltrane will serve as interim president to provide continuity and ensure that the faculty feel valued, Lillis said.
Gottfredson accomplished big things in his two years at the helm of UO and left it a stronger university, Lillis said. Because of that, and because Gottfredson gave up his right to remain as a tenured sociology professor earning $360,000 a year, the trustees unanimously gave him a $940,000 severance, Lillis said.

Why the U. of Oregon's Presidency Is Such a Difficult Job

The Chronicle of Higher Education
August 8th, 2014

The revolving door to the president’s office at the University of Oregon is spinning again. Just two years after taking the position, President Michael R. Gottfredson announced on Wednesday that he was resigning immediately to spend more time on academic research and with his family.
While the suddenness of Mr. Gottfredson’s resignation may have caught casual observers off guard, his tenure was marked by near-constant activity and, often, strife. In just 24 months, the president had to handle an NCAA investigation into recruiting violations by the football team (resulting in three years' probation and other penalties), negotiate a contract with a new faculty union, lobby (successfully) for the formation of a new governing board, and begin a major fund-raising campaign.
Most recently, Mr. Gottfredson had been heavily criticized for the institution's handling of accusations of sexual assault against three members of the men’s basketball team.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson resigns

Inside Higher Ed
August 6th, 2014

University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson resigned Wednesday after two years on the job.
A seasoned university administrator in his first presidency, Gottfredson led the university as it negotiated its first contract with its new faculty union, prepared for a $1 billion-plus fundraising campaign that never formally launched, and was ensnared in scandal over its handling of sexual assault allegations against three basketball players.
He was one of the key players who helped persuade the Oregon Legislature to give UO and other Oregon universities the right to form their own governing boards, free from the Oregon Board of Higher Education.

U. of Oregon President Resigns Abruptly

The Chronicle of Higher Education
August 7th, 2014

Michael R. Gottfredson has resigned, effective on Thursday, as president of the University of Oregon after two years on the job, according to news reports. In a resignation letter on Wednesday, he cited academic and personal reasons for stepping down. “My scholarly interests beckon,” he wrote, adding that he and his wife, Karol, “would like more time to spend with our family.”

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Don’t Leave Chants to Chance

Labor Notes
August 5th, 2014



It was April 1992, and my union, Service Employees (SEIU) Local 503, was rallying at Oregon’s Capitol steps. Our point was to gently urge the Democratic governor to move forward on tax reform.
But when staffers passed out the chant sheets and people started in on “Barbara Roberts, cheap and mean,” we had a problem.
Some hurried organizer had cribbed this chant off a flyer from our 1987 strike. It went to the tune of the nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques,” and the organizer had simply replaced a hated spokesperson’s name with Governor Roberts’s.
“You watch,” I said to the person next to me. “That chant is going to be the lead in the newspaper tomorrow.” And it was. Not exactly the message we wanted to convey.

It was April 1992, and my union, Service Employees (SEIU) Local 503, was rallying at Oregon’s Capitol steps. Our point was to gently urge the Democratic governor to move forward on tax reform.
But when staffers passed out the chant sheets and people started in on “Barbara Roberts, cheap and mean,” we had a problem.
Some hurried organizer had cribbed this chant off a flyer from our 1987 strike. It went to the tune of the nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques,” and the organizer had simply replaced a hated spokesperson’s name with Governor Roberts’s.
“You watch,” I said to the person next to me. “That chant is going to be the lead in the newspaper tomorrow.” And it was. Not exactly the message we wanted to convey.
- See more at: http://labornotes.org/2014/08/dont-leave-chants-chance#sthash.5VVufrQt.dpuf
It was April 1992, and my union, Service Employees (SEIU) Local 503, was rallying at Oregon’s Capitol steps. Our point was to gently urge the Democratic governor to move forward on tax reform.
But when staffers passed out the chant sheets and people started in on “Barbara Roberts, cheap and mean,” we had a problem.
Some hurried organizer had cribbed this chant off a flyer from our 1987 strike. It went to the tune of the nursery rhyme “Frère Jacques,” and the organizer had simply replaced a hated spokesperson’s name with Governor Roberts’s.
“You watch,” I said to the person next to me. “That chant is going to be the lead in the newspaper tomorrow.” And it was. Not exactly the message we wanted to convey.
- See more at: http://labornotes.org/2014/08/dont-leave-chants-chance#sthash.5VVufrQt.dpuf

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Pacific University awarded $798,069 for teacher program

Statesman Journal
July 30th, 2014

Pacific University received a $798,069 grant from the National Science Foundation to fund scholarships for a program aimed at increasing the number of science, technology, engineering and math teachers in Oregon.
These middle and high school teachers would serve multicultural, multilingual and high-needs schools.

Reed College students rate their professors No. 1 in the nation

The Oregonian
August 4th, 2014

Reed College rates No. 1 in the nation for professors who rate high in the eyes of their students, according to a survey of 130,000 college students released Monday by the Princeton Review.
The publisher of college guides asked students to complete a detailed survey covering all aspects of their college experience. Questions included a five-level rating of whether professors are accessible and "interesting and bring their material to life," plus open-ended questions including "comment on your professors and your overall academic experience" and "what are the greatest strengths of your school?"
At no U.S. college were students more effusive about their professors than at Reed, the most selective college in Oregon, where super-smart students learn at an intellectually curious, lushly green campus in Southeast Portland.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Some PERS rate relief in sight for public employers, thanks to reforms and big returns

The Oregonian
July 30th, 2014

Legislative reforms to public pension benefits, coupled with higher than expected investment returns, have stanched the meteoric rise in required contributions to Oregon's public pension system, the system's actuary says.
Barring a decision by the Oregon Supreme Court that those benefit changes were unconstitutional, the news will bring relief to lawmakers' budget discussion next year and take the politically uncomfortable conversation of further pension cuts off the legislative to-do list.

Are Oregon universities efficient at producing graduates? Study raises questions, but state leader says all's well

The Oregonian
August 1st, 2014

The University of Oregon and Oregon State University are spending a lot more than they used to, about $60,000, to produce a college graduate, a new study shows.
Portland State University, by contrast, remains one of the most efficient public research universities in the nation, spending just $40,700 on education and related expenses for every graduate it produces, the report says.
The study, "Trends in College Spending: 2001-2011" by the American Institutes of Research, suggests that two of Oregon's three biggest universities are headed in the wrong direction at a time when the state is amping up pressure on universities to generate more graduates per dollar. In 2006, Oregon universities were some of the best in the nation at producing graduates economically, but as of 2011, OSU looks pretty average and UO a bit sub-par.