Governor releases recommended higher ed budget
Author: Harry Esteve
Posted: December 2, 2014

Oregon’s public universities would get $626 million over the next two years in Gov. John Kitzhaber’s recommended budget, which he released Monday.

The total represents a spending increase from the previous two years — ending years of budget cuts — but it falls short of the progress university presidents were hoping for.

“While this budget is a step in the right direction, it will not do enough to control tuition, expand access and position Oregonians for a lifetime of opportunity,” the seven presidents said in a joint statement.

Kitzhaber held out hope for more, saying he would work with the Legislature to find an additional $50 million for higher education. Even with that addition, state spending on higher education would be lower in real dollars than in the 2007-09 budget. The number of students attending the state’s public universities has increased by 20,000 since then.

The seven university presidents are seeking $755 million in state aid. Currently, state spending covers about 12 percent of the cost of education at Portland State University.

“Oregon’s universities are key to the economic health of our state,” the presidents’ statement said. “Oregon needs to rebuild a strong middle class with a workforce that is trained for today’s economy. This isn’t free.”

Restoring funding to pre-2007 levels would allow universities to make progress toward student outcome mandates the governor would like, such as 80 percent of Oregonians achieving some kind of college degree, the presidents said.

Kitzhaber also recommended capital construction bonds of $275 million for higher education. Included on the list is $60 million for renovating Neuberger Hall, and money for deferred maintenance.