Friday, July 31, 2015

PERS Board lowers pension investment return assumption; increased costs coming

July 31st, 2015

The board of Oregon's public pension fund voted Friday to reduce its key actuarial assumption – the system's assumed earnings rate - from 7.75 percent to 7.5 percent to reflect lower expected returns from its investments.
That's bad news for public employers and taxpayers. Investment have historically provided more than 70 percent of the cash needed to fund retirement benefits. The reduced assumption will increase the system's funding deficit and require higher contributions from public employers and taxpayers. It also means a small reduction in benefits for some older PERS members.
The system's actuary, Milliman Inc. has also adopted new mortality assumptions to reflect the fact that retirees are living longer, a change that will put more upward pressure on system costs.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Changes to tuition act prove doubters right

Register Guard
July 30th, 2015

A significant bipartisan majority of the 2013 Legislative Assembly voted to enact House Bill 2787, which became known as the “Tuition Equity Act.” It established in-state tuition eligibility for students who demonstrate the intent to become United States citizens and who met certain previous attendance requirements in schools both in Oregon and other U.S. states and territories.
The Legislative Fiscal Office’s report on the bill estimated that only 38 undocumented alien students would access the opportunity to pay in-state tuition to attend an Oregon university during the 2013-15 budget period, and that 80 students would participate during the 2015-17 biennium. The Act didn’t affect Oregon community colleges, because they do not have residency requirements. 

Feds find UO grad student falsified research data, voiding results of four studies

July 30th, 2015

A former University of Oregon professor who received millions of dollars in federal grant money confirmed Wednesday that he's requested retractions of four research papers published in scholarly journals because one of his graduate students fabricated data.
Nationally known brain researcher Edward Awh, who recently moved to the University of Chicago, declined to say why David E. Anderson, the UO grad student, knowingly falsified research results.
The University of Oregon investigated the misconduct and reported it to federal officials. The U.S. Office of Research Integrity published a notice saying the UO grad student engaged in misconduct in research supported by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Institutes of Health. Grants listed in the notice amounted to $5.47 million over eight years. The notice said that Anderson would be subject to intensive supervision when conducting any further research.'

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Encouraging start for UO

Register Guard
July 29th, 2015

The $2 billion goal for the University of Oregon’s fundraising campaign is as ambitious today as it was when it was announced last October. Donations from alumni and other supporters will have to increase from their current near-record amounts if the target is to be reached before the end of the decade. But there are encouraging signs of momentum that, if it can be sustained, would bring the target within reach.
During the fiscal year that ended July 30, the UO raised $214 million in donations. That record is eclipsed only by the $277 million raised in 2008, when Phil Knight established the $100 million UO Athletic Legacy Fund that helped finance construction of the Matt Knight Arena.
Last year’s total was an 86 percent increase over the amount raised the year before, and while it included several donations of substantial size — $50 million from UO Trustee Connie Ballmer and her husband, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and $10 million from Don and Willie Tykeson of Eugene — the money came from relatively diverse sources. The UO is showing that it can depend on more than one big donor.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Community College Funding Up, Possible Formula Changes Coming

July 24th, 2015

Oregon’s community colleges are seeing double-digit funding increases for the upcoming school year, thanks to a bump in state spending and a rise in property tax collections. But it may be the last time colleges receive funding under the current funding formula.
Lawmakers agreed to spend nearly $550 million on community colleges over the next two years. That’s up nearly $80 million, over the previous biennium. 
Oregon colleges also benefited from a $33 million increase in local property taxes.
The largest college in Oregon, Portland Community College, saw combined local and state funding jump more than 20 percent. Central Oregon, Chemeketa and Oregon Coast community colleges saw similar increases. 

Friday, July 24, 2015

UO faculty compensation competitive with other public AAUs, reaches target set by senate

Around the O
July 24th, 2015

The University of Oregon has achieved an ambitious goal set by the University Senate to bring total faculty salary and benefits in line with average faculty compensation at similar top public research universities.
Recent data released by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) shows that average UO compensation for tenure-related faculty is 99.3 percent of the average compensation of public Association of American Universities (AAU) peers in 2015. The number is 106.4 percent when adjusted for cost of living.
“The UO has significantly invested in faculty salaries over the last few years,” said Jamie Moffitt, vice president for finance and administration. “When combined with our very generous compensation package, including health care and retirement, total compensation is in line with our peer AAU public institutions.”

A test of ‘free’ tuition

Register Guard
July 24th, 2015

If Oregon is serious about its goal of having 80 percent of high-school graduates earn a two- or four-year college degree by 2025, and if the state intends for its citizens to be prepared for well-paid jobs requiring training and skills, the doors to community colleges will need to be opened as wide as possible. On Monday Gov. Kate Brown signed a bill that should make it easier for students to afford a community college education — though whether it’s the fairest and most effective approach will remain in doubt until after it’s tried.
Senate Bill 81, sponsored by Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, creates the Oregon Promise program, which is intended to provide “free” community college tuition for 4,000 to 6,000 students. The quotation marks are needed because the tuition wouldn’t really be free — a $10 million state appropriation would pay it. And even those students who qualify for the tuition subsidy would have to find ways to pay the other significant costs of attending community colleges.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Here are the bills that could make an impact on education in Oregon

The Statesman Journal
July 8th, 2015

Some lawmakers say it's the most important topic in the legislature.
And with the amount of funds, the policies and the legislation devoted to education, it's also among the most highly-debated issues at the Oregon State Capitol during the 2015 session.
Few people argue that schools need less money and less attention. But many bills focused on giving Oregon's education system, the students and their educators the support and resources they need were at the heart of much of the 2015 session's discourse.
Few would know better than the chairs of the Senate and House committees on education, Rep. Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, and Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay.
"Overall I think education got a highlight in this session," said Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, who chaired the Senate committee on education. "It was a pretty productive year on both the House and Senate side."

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Our Opinion: Oregon Promise doesn't go far enough

Portland Tribune
July 16th, 2015

When it comes to higher education, Oregon has a problem.
When the Oregon Education Investment Board launched the 40-40-20 plan, it was ambitious, to say the least. It aimed for 40 percent of Oregonians to have a baccalaureate degree (or higher), 40 percent to have an associate’s degree or certification in a skilled occupation, and the remaining 20 percent to have at least a high school diploma or equivalent — all by 2025.
Since its launch, we’ve seen Oregon high school graduation rates drop to the lowest level in the nation. That’s dead last in the United States.
Once students do graduate from high school (or earn equivalent certification), then they face high tuition rates for college. In-state tuition and fees for both Oregon State University and the University of Oregon are approaching $10,000 per year. When you add on housing and other expenses, higher education becomes something that only a select few can afford — without taking on a crushing amount of student debt.

Oregon To Give Public Universities More Money Next Year

July 9th, 2015

All seven of Oregon’s public universities are poised to get substantially more state money over the next two years. In preliminary figures released Wednesday, some universities stand to get bigger increases than others. 
Western Oregon University would get a 28 percent funding boost. Portland State is close behind, with a possible 25 percent bump. 
Oregon State University would get the smallest boost - just 13 percent. But it also gets the most overall state funding of any university, topping $100 million. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Free Community College Catches On

Inside Higher Ed
July 9th, 2015

President Obama’s push for free community college has yet to be shunted aside by the debt-free college ideas his aspiring Democratic successors are talking up.
Oregon now is poised to follow Tennessee as the second state with a plan on the books to provide free two-year college. And Democrats in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives introduced bills Wednesday that seek to make Obama’s federal proposal a reality. The proposed legislation lacks any Republican support, however, so the bills are unlikely to go anywhere.
Yet the Oregon Promise, which the Legislature passed last week and which Governor Kate Brown, a Democrat, is expected to sign, is an indication that the concept of free community college has some momentum.
Mark Hass, a Democratic state senator in Oregon, proposed the legislation. It’s a last-dollar plan, which means the state will spend $10 million a year to fill in the tuition gaps that state and federal aid don’t cover.

David Sarasohn: A good session for higher education, but more work remains

July 18th, 2015

Even for a year that started with the Ducks getting drilled in the national championship game, 2015 has signs of a good year for Oregon higher education. With the overall 2015-2017 state budget up by 11 percent, state support for its universities went up by more than 22 percent and for community colleges by 18 percent, both numbers unseen for at least two decades. The Legislature also considerably increased funding for the state Opportunity Grants scholarship program and sizably funded higher ed construction. It's a major investment in Oregon's colleges and universities, the first actual cash-based support for the state's proclaimed 40-40-20 goal, a significant effort to slow our tuition levels from shooting upward like illegal fireworks.
It's enough to haul out the pompoms left from the championship game and give three cheers for the Legislature.

Governor signs community college tuition waiver bill

Statesman Journal
July 17th, 2015

Hood River’s Columbia Gorge Community College provided an appropriate location for Gov. Kate Brown’s ceremonial signing of a bill that will provide a tuition waiver for qualifying community college students.
Brown was joined by Rep. Mark Johnson, R-Hood River, who advocated for lowering tuition at Oregon’s community colleges and universities during the 2015 session. Johnson co-sponsored the legislation, known as the Oregon Promise initiative, with Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, and Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, according to a press release from Johnson’s office.
The bill allocates $10 million in tuition waivers for students who qualify for the program, which will go into effect July 1, 2016, for courses during the 2016-17 academic year. As a “last dollar” program, students who qualify must first have applied for federal student aid and accepted all available federal financial aid. Other qualifications include having received a high school diploma or GED within the last six months, resided in Oregon for 12 months prior to enrolling and earned a cumulative GPA of 2.5 or better in high school.

Community college tuition: Kate Brown will sign law offering waivers

July 16th, 2015

Legislation on community college tuition that's captured the nation's fancy — offering waivers to some needy students as soon as next year — will receive Gov. Kate Brown's signature Friday, the governor's office has announced.
Brown will sign Senate Bill 81 as part of a ceremony at Columbia Gorge Community College's Indian Creek campus in Hood River. It's part of a four-stop tour of the community that also includes remarks at a business boosters brunch and tours of two local businesses.
Approval of SB 81, passed in the waning days of this year's legislative session, was widely expected.

Sylvia Kelley becomes PCC interim president -- Jeremy Brown's departure still unexplained

July17th, 2015

Sylvia Kelley, an experienced academic administrator, will serve as Portland Community College's interim president while trustees conduct a national search for the school's next leader.
PCC announced Thursday that the interim post would go to Kelley, who has served as acting president of Oregon's biggest post-secondary institution since May 18, when President Jeremy Brown was ousted.
Trustees still haven't explained why they cut ties with Brown, who left with a $300,000 severance package. PCC's elected Board of Directors picked Brown in April 2013 to head the community college with almost 90,000 full- and part-time students. The nuclear-physicist-turned-administrator had been booted in September 2012 from his job as president of Dowling College, a struggling four-year Long Island school with fewer than 4,000 students.