Thursday, May 19, 2016

Oregon's anemic higher education funding (OPINION)

The Oregonian
By Robert Berdahl
May 18, 2016

As one of the advocates for creating separate governing boards for Oregon's universities, I was pleased to note the apparent success The Oregonian/OregonLive reported about the initial operation of these boards. The article also noted that the Legislature had allocated a "record $665 million in general state support ... for the 2015-17 biennium."

While Oregonians may take some satisfaction in this "record" appropriation to higher education, it may also be useful to put that number into a comparative context. We might ask ourselves: What do other states with similar populations and state budgets spend on public higher education?

The answer is disquieting.

The "Distribution of State General Fund Expenditures" compiled for the most recent year of available data, 2014, by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, provides a comparison of state expenditures.

In 2014, Oregon, with a population of 3.9 million, had total state expenditures of $7.9 billion; it spent $347 million on higher education, less than half of the $885 million it spent on corrections. Oregon ranked 26th in total expenditures, but it ranked 41st in expenditures for higher education and 18th in expenditures for corrections. None of the nine states spending less than Oregon on higher education had populations of more than 1.6 million, and the average population of the nine was only 1 million. Even North Dakota, with a population of about 740,000, spent more on higher education than Oregon. The 17 states that spent more on corrections are all large states, with average populations of about 13.4 million.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Two hear about higher education issues

The Portland Tribune
By Peter Wong
May 16, 2016

Oregon students share similar difficulties with their national peers about restricted access to and the rising cost of education beyond high school, a key congressional Democrat says.

Virginia Rep. Bobby Scott, the top-ranking member of his party on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, made the observation after a couple of Portland-area meetings arranged by Oregon Rep. Suzanne Bonamici. She also sits on the committee.

One meeting was at the Rock Creek campus of Portland Community College, where students, higher education and workforce training officials discussed not only student finances but also college completion and career readiness.

The other was at Portland State University, where the discussion focused on the affordability of child care and the advocacy of family-friendly policies in a changing workplace.

“I am glad to see him here to hear about some of the things Oregon is doing,” Bonamici said.

“We have a lot of challenges ahead, but these are critical issues for us to address.

“I invited Mr. Scott — a congressional leader on education and workforce issues — to see how the Oregon approach of collaboration and innovation can help solve complicated problems. We will continue our shared efforts to craft policies that give children, young people, and working families the support they need to succeed.”

The committee has brokered bipartisan compromises on the renewal of federal aid to primary and secondary education in the Student Success Act and renewal of the Older Americans Act. Both have passed Congress and been signed by President Barack Obama.