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Sustainability Center: Investing in Oregon's Future
Author: By Lloyd Lindley II, Guest columnist at The Oregonian
Posted: October 24, 2011

Link: http://www.oregonlive.com/opinion/index.ssf/2011/10/sustainability_center_investin.html

The Oregon Sustainability Center on the Portland State University campus is a strategically responsible investment for Oregon. Oregon's university system is one of the pillars of state innovation, employment and economic growth. The University of Oregon, Oregon State University, Oregon Health Sciences University and Portland State University have all risen with the academic and economic tide of national and international higher education. With 43 percent of first year and graduate students from out of state, our universities enjoy the recognition of high quality programs that attract students willing to invest higher tuition in Oregon's institutions. Our university system has intentionally and strategically grown in quality and recognition despite economic challenges.

According to the OHSU Vision 2020 Strategic Plan, the University is in the highly competitive top 25 medical research universities at $169 million in National Institute of Health grants and the schools of medicine, dentistry and nursing all rank in U.S. News and World Report's top 10. The U of O and OSU include colleges that are ranked in the top 10 and top 25 in the US and are recognized internationally for high quality professional and academic areas of study. Portland State's Maseeh College of Engineering and Computer Science, just 2 blocks away, is ranked in the US News and World Report's top 10. One of Maseeh College's top research growth areas is in solar energy systems with a focus on finding production methods that enhance competitiveness of local industry. The Oregon Center for Sustainability is a direct beneficiary of this on-going nationally recognized research and will contribute facilities (largest auditorium and lecture hall on campus), programs and organizations that complement advanced engineering research and development.

Oregon's university employment has increased since 1994 from 61,000 to over 95,000 jobs and has shown consistent growth through previous and the latest economic down turns. State funding fell 9.2 percent over the past five years while student tuition and population growth has risen. At the same time unemployment in higher education is a low two percent with median annual incomes around $85,000. State's contributions are on a constant decline. At the U of O, state funding is at approximately eight percent, while private contributions and tuition pay the balance of 92 percent. This represents a ten times return on Oregon's educational investment.

There is no better time than in a down economy to invest in the infrastructure necessary to support one of Oregon's top growth industries. The Oregon Center for Sustainability is a good investment for Oregon and an important and fundamental investment in the continued growth and vitality of not only our university system but also in the future innovative and highly trained professionals, researchers and managers that support the professions and employment base of Oregon's industries. We can not afford to squander this opportunity to invest in the vision and commitment to innovation and advancement of economic, social and technical sustainability at one of Oregon's fastest growing universities. An investment in PSU is a wise investment in the Oregon University System.

Lloyd Lindley II is a fellow of the American Society of Landscape Architects, an adjunct professor of architecture at the University of Oregon and past chair of the Portland Design Commission.