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December 17, 1999            
Contact: Bob Bruce, 503-725-5714

New University Best Serves Central Oregon, CORAB Tells State Board

PORTLAND - Developing Oregon's eighth public university within 10 years is the best long-term solution to the higher educational needs of Central Oregon, an advisory group reported to the Oregon State Board of Higher Education Friday.

The Central Oregon Regional Advisory Board (CORAB) said regional and economic growth has made Central Oregon the largest area "in the nation without a regionally sited university." According to CORAB, some 2,000 current residents are currently being left out of higher educational opportunities because they are unable to attend one of the seven existing public universities. And that need, the advisory group says, can best be served by establishing a new capstone public university in the region.

"There is significant and growing need for higher educational services in Central Oregon," said Sally Collins, the chair of the advisory group. "With this vision, we can serve those students and add value to the Oregon University System."

CORAB serves a citizens advisory panel to both the State Board of Higher Education and the board of Central Oregon Community College. It was established in January to look at regional needs and develop a long-term higher educational expansion plan for Central Oregon.

In presenting its report and plan Friday, CORAB members unanimously endorsed the idea of establishing a new institution. For planning purposes, the advisory group has labeled it "Central Oregon University."

The CORAB plan calls for measured development of a public university in the region using available resources and facilities. It projects no capital construction costs for the first 10 years, saying the institution can be operated with limited additional state general fund support and tuition income. Existing infrastructure will reduce start-up costs and will allow planners to concentrate on program development. CORAB estimates it will require tuition income of $1.75 million and $975,000 in new state funding to operate a capstone institution of 500 students in the region. For 1,000 students, it calculates income at $3.5 million and state need at $1.95 million.

"We are confident we can deliver a high level of education with these numbers," said Patty Moss, president and chief executive officer of the Bank of the Cascades, a CORAB member.

"The committee is asking you to spread your vision, not your dollars," added COCC President Bob Barber, who has worked closely with the regional group.

CORAB's plan counts on using programs at Central Oregon Community College as the base for lower-division work. Upper-division and limited graduate work would be expanded from classes, degrees and programs now offered in the area by the Central Oregon University Center. The Center is an administrative unit of the Oregon University System. It recently received $1 million federal funds to construct a new state-of-the-art classroom building on the COCC campus.

"It has been 40 years since a public university was established in Oregon," Collins summarized. "We are eager to complete the Oregon University System by adding a missing jewel to the crown."

Members of State Board said Friday that they want to review the CORAB proposal in detail before initiating next steps. Meanwhile, CORAB members say they will make a similar presentation to the Central Oregon Community College board in early January, and are planning a series of public meetings through Central Oregon to acquaint citizens with the proposal.

The Board also heard a presentation from Oregon State Economist Tom Potiowsky on the future prospects for Oregon's economy and its affect on state government financing. In the wake of the Asian economic crisis, Potiowsky predicts that Oregon is likely to return to growth at rates that are higher than that of the nation on average. But this growth is likely to be much milder than what the state experienced during the boom years of the mid 1990s.

"We are not so dependent on one main manufacturing sector as we have been in the past," explained Potiowsky. "But this doesn't mean that it keeps you out of trouble."

Potiowsky pointed out that Oregon tops the western states in the percentage of merchandise exports destined for Asia. In Oregon, these exports include products from agriculture and timber, but also high technology.

Potiowsky also predicted that some of the ballot measure in upcoming elections could have large impacts on state funding if they were enacted. An initiative recently referred to the ballot by the Legislature would raise the state income tax deduction on federal tax liability to $5,000. Another measure would eliminate the cap on the federal deduction altogether. Either could have a significant impact on general fund dollars available in the 2001-2003 biennium, according to Potiowsky.

Two additional ballot measures would eliminate all state taxes and fees in lieu of a gross receipt tax. The tax, similar to a value added tax, would use proposed tax rates of 2.5 or 2.2 percent. These tax rates are probably not high enough to be revenue neutral, Potiowsky said.

In other action Friday, the Board:

  • Authorized new summer session tuition and fee schedules for Oregon's public universities. The new fees vary by campus. They have been adjusted to bring summer rates closer in line with regular year academic rates. For 12 hours of resident undergraduate credit, total tuition and fees will range between $871 and $1,100, up slightly from a year ago because of differential changes in health, technology and other resource fees.
  • Approved renaming the Walter M. Pierce Library at Eastern Oregon University as Pierce Library. The new name recognizes the late Oregon Governor Walter Piece and his wife, Cornelia, who was Oregon's first state librarian.
  • Okayed financial plans to build an 8,500 square-foot, hazardous waste disposal facility at Oregon State University. The facility will store and process hazardous waste produced by OSU researchers and laboratory instruction. The Board will seek approval from the Legislative Emergency Board to issue $800,000 in 20-year state bonds to be used with $400,000 from the OUS academic modernization and emergency reserve, and $800,000 from campus modernization and repairs funds to pay for the estimated $2 million in new construction.
  • And approved two new academic degree programs at Western Oregon University. Western will offer a bachelor's degree in philosophy, effective immediately, and will begin offering a master's degree program in social policy by fall 2000.

 

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