March 5, 1999           



Contact: Bob Bruce (503) 725-5714
Source: Chancellor Joe Cox (541) 346-5700

Public Universities Changing to Meet Oregon's Needs,
Chancellor Says in Portland City Club Speech


PORTLAND - Oregon's public universities have embarked on an ambitious new agenda to improve access, quality and cost-effectiveness, the Chancellor of the Oregon University System said here Friday.

Speaking to the Portland City Club, Chancellor Joe Cox said the "recapitalization" of the state university system promises to meet growing statewide needs in higher education. It will also mean a new way of doing business for Oregon's seven public universities in the 21st century.

"We've discarded the notion that our universities deserve support primarily because they have been established in the public trust," Cox said. The Oregon University System share of the state's general fund has shrunk to roughly half of what it was a decade ago.

"For the first time, our public universities have a strategic plan that complements the State of Oregon's plan."

Cox said the State Board of Higher Education has approved a major restructuring, including development of a new budget model, targeted initiatives and performance measures for each OUS campus.

The reform efforts are in direct response to the rapidly changing economy and anticipated population growth in Oregon. Since 1995, high technology jobs have out-paced the state's historic strength in natural resource-related employment. Economists predict that many of state's fastest growing occupations will require applicants to hold a bachelor's degree or better.

"The dynamics of these market changes both underlies and caused the extraordinary story of the transformation of Oregon public higher education," said Cox.

According the Cox, Oregon's public universities are aiming to improve graduation rates by 2 percent in the next two years, adding 13,450 to the state's workforce, including between 350 and 400 additional graduates in the critical fields such as engineering, computer science and mathematics.

Other system goals include producing 200 more teachers in the high demand areas of special education, bilingual education, speech therapy, counseling and foreign language; increasing freshman grade point averages; increasing externally funded research; expanding lifelong learning opportunities for an additional 15,000 working adults; and developing internships for all students.

He said the state's public universities are again becoming "the choice of Oregon high school graduates." An estimated 20.8 percent of this spring's Oregon high school graduating class will enroll on OUS campuses next fall. The projection is the highest in a decade.

"We must continue to retain the best and brightest in our state. But, we must also attract and retain the best and brightest from other states if we are to more fully respond to Oregon's high demand for a skilled and knowledge-based workforce. The talent pool will be critical to our effectiveness," Cox said.

The "best and brightest" also includes faculty, he said.

"Our faculty is one of Oregon's greatest resources," Cox said. "But they too need improved support for salary, for professional development and for the opportunity to add knowledge and value to Oregon through research and public service."

With that support, he said, higher education can become Oregon's "best hope for the future."

OUS campuses include Eastern Oregon University, LaGrande; Oregon Institute of Technology, Klamath Falls; Oregon State University, Corvallis; Portland State University; Southern Oregon University, Ashland; the University of Oregon, Eugene; and Western Oregon University, Monmouth.

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