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Higher education operating budget approved by Ways & Means subcommittee

Contact: Di Saunders – Office, 503-725-5714; Cell, 503-219-6869

PORTLAND, June 6, 2007 – Late yesterday afternoon, the Education Subcommittee of the Joint Committee on Ways and Means approved a 2007-2009 higher education operating budget (Senate Bill 5515) of $867.9 million for the Oregon University System. The budget represents an increase of 18.2% over the 2005-2007 legislatively approved operating budget of $734.1 million, and is the largest increase directed at student programs/services, educational quality, and workforce and economic development initiatives in many years. It also signals a major commitment by the Legislature to meet Governor Kulongoski’s and the Oregon State Board of Higher Education’s ten-year reinvestment plan to improve student access and affordability, high quality learning, innovative research and programs directed at economic development and state priorities, and initiatives to address workforce shortages in Oregon.

George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the OUS, said, “This budget is a significant first step in reinvesting in Oregon’s students, our quality institutions, and the economic future of the state. We are grateful for the considerable time and effort invested by the subcommittee to ensure that Oregon can work towards the educational levels needed to build a stronger workforce, higher paying jobs, and a dynamic, competitive economy across the state.”

For the first time in many years, the subcommittee’s budget includes funding to pay for enrollment increases. “The $20.6 million for enrollment, and the $6.8 million to reduce student/faculty ratios, will allow the universities to invest in support services that help students stay in school, get the classes, courses and faculty they need to succeed, and graduate faster, and thus at a lower cost,” said Pernsteiner. Another student-focused effort funded at $580,000 in the subcommittee budget is the Rural Access Initiative. This Eastern Oregon University administered program will develop programs to increase the number of rural Oregonians who go to college.

Other OUS priorities funded in the Subcommittee’s budget included $9 million to support the regional campuses – Eastern Oregon University, Southern Oregon University, and Western Oregon University – and Oregon Institute of Technology and the Cascades Campus of Oregon State University located in Bend. “These campuses play a very important educational and community role in the regions in which they serve,” said Pernsteiner. “This investment will help them restore student and campus support systems and programs that have been especially hard hit during the last 3 biennia of cuts to higher education.”

With the subcommittee’s investment of $10 million in faculty salary increases, campuses will be better equipped to retain their quality faculty members, and have resources to attract new faculty as retirements and regular turnover produce vacancies in the OUS. Prior to this funding, average OUS faculty salaries have been about 17% lower than the average of peer salaries. “OUS faculty are among the most productive in the country, ranking 7th overall in federal research and development grants per faculty member,” said Pernsteiner. “This is a phenomenal record given that Oregon is currently 45th in the nation in terms of per student funding for postsecondary education. These faculty are key assets of the university system and integral to the academic success of our students. We must support them with competitive salaries or lose them.”

Another priority investment of $15 million was made by the subcommittee in the programs advocated by the Engineering and Technology Industry Council (ETIC), a public private partnership whose initiatives work to increase the number and quality of engineering and computer science graduates, as well as related research initiatives and faculty, to meet the needs of the public, private and nonprofit sectors in Oregon. “This investment in ETIC leverages millions from key industries who share our goal of increasing the number of technology and knowledge workers,” said Bruce Schafer, executive director of ETIC. “This investment will help the state build the highly skilled workforce we need to keep companies here, and bring in new organizations with new jobs and high skill wages for Oregonians.”

Oregon’s healthcare workforce shortage will be addressed with the subcommittee’s investment of almost $7.4 million in an initiative to increase the number of nurses and healthcare technicians and clinicians. About two-thirds of the funding ($4.6 million) will support OIT’s medical-related programs and offerings, and one-third ($2.8 million) will support nursing courses through the Consortium for Nursing Education in Oregon.

Every county in Oregon will benefit from the subcommittee’s $5 million budget investment in the Statewide Public Services, which are run through Oregon State University and include the Extension Service, the Agricultural Experiment Station, and the Forest Research Laboratory. Programs, services, and outreach through these public services aids traditional Oregon industries, provides a diverse set of education and training programs to Oregonians of all ages, and helps solve community issues statewide.

Other funded programs and initiatives in the subcommittee’s budget include $200,000 for the Institute for Natural Resources at OSU; $1.2 million for Oregon Solutions, a program at the Policy Consensus Institute at Portland State University; $750,000 for the Veterinary Diagnostic Lab operated by OSU; $1.4 million for the Integrated Data System to support Pre-K through 20 alignment and ease of student transfer; and $2.2 million to support utility cost increases, among other budget allocations.

The subcommittee’s 2007-2009 budget includes almost $842 million in state General Fund allocations, and almost $26 million in lottery funds, compared to the 2005-2007 legislatively approved operating budget of $722.6 in state General Fund and $11.4 in lottery funds. The $133.8 million increase over the current biennium is an 11.2% increase over the Essential Budget Level for OUS, and an 18.2% increase over the 2005-2007 operating budget. The EBL projects the cost of maintaining existing agency programs through 2007-2009.

The subcommittee’s approved budget bill will now go to the full Joint Committee on Ways and Means. Still to be considered is the OUS capital construction budget, and Oregon Innovation Council industry cluster initiatives, which involve collaborations with OUS research institutes and faculty, such as the Oregon Nanoscience and Microtechnologies Institute (ONAMI).

Oregon University System comprises seven distinguished public universities, reaching more than one million people each year through on-campus classes, statewide public services and lifelong learning. For additional information, go to www.ous.edu

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