Here is the full article: http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2012/04/psus_particular_problems.html
For Oregon's two major universities, help has come from afar.
Both the University of Oregon and Oregon State have benefited, in these lean economic times, from considerable increases in the number of out-of-state students, paying out-of-state tuition that helps subsidize Oregon students.
The U of O, as it did in the 1990s, has sizably increased the proportion of its students from outside Oregon, allowing for an increase in spending per student. Earlier this year, Oregon State, increasing both its overall student body and out-of-state enrollment, was able to proudly announce the hiring of 80 new faculty members -- in a faculty buyer's market.
But Portland State is by definition Portland's local urban university. Although its out-of-state enrollment has risen, the slope has been more gradual, less able to compensate for a decade of rising Oregon enrollment. Partly due to that circumstance, Portland State faces $25 million budget shortfalls in each of the next three years.
It's a deficit that could also produce a shortfall in the vital contribution Portland State makes to the local economy.
To a large extent, of course, Portland State's problems are recognizable to any element in the Oregon University System. The state's historic undercommitment to higher education, intensified by 20 years of disinvestment, has hurt all the state universities. Their fiscal problems, like those of other public institutions, are deepened by rising PERS obligations. Oregon was an early, and unduly enthusiastic, participant in the national trend of transferring higher education costs to students and their families, a counterproductive trend even before the worst recession in memory.
But Portland State, with a particular commitment to providing university access in the state's largest metropolitan area, and with a more limited history of private support, has some particular vulnerabilities. Its constituency is also particularly sensitive to tuition increases; raising PSU tuition by 9 percent this year flattened enrollment after years of explosive growth. For next year, PSU will hold its tuition increase well below the Oregon and Oregon State levels.
This week, Portland State began some administration and staff layoffs and announced a faculty and staff early retirement incentive program, which carries the risk of costing a university more in quality than it gains in savings. President Wim Wiewel has asked each part of the university to designate 4 percent cuts for next year, and to contemplate cuts at the same level for the following two years.
He hopes it won't come to that.
"If we hold to the three years of 4 percent cuts it will be very troubling," Wiewel said Thursday. He felt it was necessary to make clear to the PSU community that next year's cuts won't fix the problem, but if a full three-year sequence is needed, "I'll be very disappointed."
So will PSU students and a large part of the Portland community.
One direct change, useful for the entire Oregon University System, would be an end to the state's free-fall in university support, and its reliance on tuition increases. That improvement would appropriately benefit all three major universities plus the regionals, which along with PSU carry the bulk of the burden of access for first-generation college students.
But Portland State's metropolitan role -- and its situation -- gives it a claim on more direct metropolitan support, including more private support from alumni and other donors. The consequences would be dramatic if PSU must continue cutting what it has worked so hard to build.
All Oregon universities have gotten some help from afar.
As with everything about Portland State, its fiscal solution must be more local.