This update provides a summary of the 2019-21 budget for the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, including the seven public universities, approved by the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education during its June 11th meeting. For the Legislative Fiscal Office Report, click here.


Operational Funds – the Public University Support Fund

In November, despite a recommended 25% increase from the Governor-appointed Higher Education Coordination Commission (HECC), Governor Brown proposed a $736.9 million budget for Oregon’s public universities – essentially flat funding universities at the 2017-19 level. In a supplemental budget, she proposed a $120 million increase (16.3%) hinged on the expectation that the legislature would approve a $2 billion tax increase, a portion of which would be dedicated to higher education.

The universities indicated that a $120 million increase would enable all but one of the seven institutions to meet mandatory cost increases while keeping tuition increases below 5% each year for the next two years. (SOU indicated that even with the $120 million increase, it would not be able to keep tuition increases below 5%.)

Legislators opposed using any of the $2.7 billion in corporate tax increases they passed to support higher education. In March, the Tri-chairs of the Joint Ways & Means Committee proposed a $40.5 million increase (5.5%) for university operating budgets, based on the state-defined continuing service level. Following two months of lobbying and subcommittee hearings, the Education Subcommittee approved a $100 million increase (13.6%), for a total of $836.9 million in operating funds for the 2019-21 biennium. This increase would currently enable at least three universities to keep tuition increases below 5%, though many would still face significant budget reductions. OSU estimates taking over $8 million in spending reductions over the next year. The HECC will consider tuition increases at those institutions with proposals higher than 5% at a June 13 meeting.

Statewide Public Service Programs

OSU sought a $30 million increase (24%) over a base budget of $124.4 million for the Statewide Public Service Programs – Extension Service, Agricultural Experiment Station and Forest Research Laboratory. This increase included a $14.6 million increase to meet “current service levels” and to recover past budget reductions. The remaining $15.4 million would enable new strategic initiatives across the three programs.

The current legislative budget allocates a $14.0 million increase (11.3%) to the Statewides, with no funding allocated to new initiatives. A preliminary version of the budget showed a $2.0 million increase for a new fire resilience program implemented by the Extension Service, but the appropriation appears to have been eliminated over the last week. It may yet reappear in an end-of-session budget bill.

State Programs

After the tri-chairs threatened to reduce and/or eliminate some State Programs at each of the seven universities, the current appropriation bill includes increases of 5.5% to maintain state-defined current service levels. This funding category includes the following OSU-based programs:

  • Engineering Technology Sustaining Funds (shared by OSU, UO, PSU & OIT)
  • TallWood Design Institute (shared by OSU & UO)
  • OSU Fermentation Science
  • Signature Research Centers (OSU’s ATAMI, plus UO & PSU programs)
  • OSU Marine Research Vessel
  • Institute of Natural Resources
  • Oregon Climate Change Research Institute (shared by OSU, UO & PSU)

The State Programs budget also includes a final, one-time appropriation of $1.6 million for OSU’s PacWave South wave energy test site. The additional funding brings total state support for the project to $5.4 million and provides a portion of the required match for a $40 million US Department of Energy federal grant. OSU is seeking to raise or invest $4.6 million from other sources.

Oregon Opportunity Grant

The proposed budget includes an overall increase of $12.5 million for Oregon’s need-based financial aid program, the Oregon Opportunity Grant. This will generate approximately 2,500 additional grants for students attending Oregon community colleges and universities.

Capital Funding

The Governor proposed three distinct capital projects for the 2019-21 biennium, including $65 million for capital renewal across all seven public universities. She indicated that she would seek $225 million in debt capacity to fund additional university projects during the 2020 session, subject to an in-depth study currently being conducted by the HECC.

The Joint Ways & Means Capital Subcommittee held one hearing on university capital spending in early May in which legislators raised a number of concerns regarding university projects. Legislative leaders have not indicated which, if any, university projects may be funded, or whether the legislature will reserve borrowing capacity for use during the 2020 legislative session. Capital funding will be one of the last bills legislators consider before they adjourn sometime before June 30.


If you have any questions or concerns regarding budget numbers or other legislative matters, please do not hesitate to contact us.

We will produce a comprehensive summary after the legislature adjourns.

Last fall OSU President Ed Ray endorsed the creation of the Presidential Student Legislative Advocates (PSLA) program with the two-pronged intent of increasing student advocacy in the Oregon legislative process while providing students an opportunity to learn about, and engage in, public policy issues of concern to them.

Nominated by college and university leaders, program participants participated with university leaders, the Associated Students of OSU (ASOSU) and activists in briefings with legislators, lobbyists, and legislative staff regarding issues that came before the state legislature during the 2019 legislative session.

Throughout the session, PSLA participants played a significant role in OSU’s advocacy efforts, with an emphasis on increasing funding for student programs. This included:

  • Working with OSU’s Office of Government Relations, Beaver Caucus, and the ASOSU leadership to pursue specific legislative priorities for students attending Oregon’s public universities;
  • Participating as team leaders for various OSU lobby and advocacy activities;
  • Following specific bills of interest as they worked their way through the legislative process;
  • Meeting with their own legislators and legislative staff;
  • Attending committee hearings; and
  • Shadowing lobbyists and other legislative advocates as they operated in the State Capitol.
PSLA students with ASOSU and Beaver Caucus members at the Capitol.

The PSLA offered students an insider’s view of the people, organizations, and processes that characterize Oregon’s legislative process. It also carried an expectation that students would engage, on behalf of OSU and ASOSU, in the legislative process, supporting measures and actions designed to help keep tuition low, increase investments in OSU’s facilities, and further the statewide impact that OSU programs have on Oregon’s economic and social vitality.

Here are some specific achievements from the first PSLA cohort:

  • In addition to actively participating in organized lobby days, students visited the Capitol on a “Carbon Field Trip” that involved sessions with Governor Brown’s Carbon Advisor, advocates for and against state carbon legislation, and committee staff responsible for shepherding a complex state bill through the legislative process.
  • A number of students “shadowed” lobbyists involved in issues of interest to them – including lobbyists for the Oregon Education Association, American Civil Liberties Union, and the Oregon Department of Human Services.
  • Eight students joined their legislators during floor sessions in the Senate.
  • PSLA students served as team leaders at our lobby days. These events consisted of advocating for a variety of topics including college accessibility and affordability, a $120 million increase for university operating funds, full funding for the Oregon Opportunity Grant, campus building renovations and construction and reinvestment in the OSU Statewide Public Service Programs – the Agricultural Experiment Station, Extension Service, and Forest Research Laboratory.
  • Led by an Army Veteran participant in the PSLA, student veterans from multiple universities and community colleges were successful in advocating for SB 35, which removed a sunset clause from an Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs campus grant program and enabled more funding to hire counselors and advisors for veteran students. They were also successful in increasing funding for the program from the $700K recommended by the Governor to $1 million.
  • PSLA participants also led efforts to pass SB 731, which enables student governments to take stances on issues that are of interest to them. The bill clears up a grey area in the law that has caused confusion within student governments across the state.


Comments from Participants:


PSLA did not just teach me how to lobby and speak to legislators, it connected me to people who have great networks and an interest in seeing me succeed. Because of PSLA I now have a much greater idea of what direction I want to go with my life and how to achieve that goal.


I remember the day that I and ten other students went to Salem to learn more about HB 2020 (carbon legislation). We were able to sit in the committee chairs and ask questions to key players involved in the legislation. I will carry that moment after I graduate as something that further confirmed my interest in politics.


PSLA has been a great overall experience; it has helped me to build my professional network, and introduced me to new friends and new opportunities both on and off campus! I gained skills in professional communication and interactions and in leadership, which will help me in nearly all future aspects of my life!


I would not even know where to begin if I were to list all of the new experiences and skills this program has brought to me, because it introduced me into a completely new realm I was passionate about, but did not know how to get involved. As for OSU, having students get listened to and populate the Capitol halls is something that we need to expand upon even more since the neglect of funding higher education in Oregon is going to hurt us all.

We are looking forward to the development of this program as it moves into its second cohort during the 2019-20 academic year.

With the June 30th deadline for adjournment just over a month and a half away, the Oregon Legislature is nearing a final vote on a $2 billion revenue package, is considering over 90 amendments to a comprehensive joint “carbon action plan,” and is considering various proposals for addressing housing costs and efforts to control cost increases in the state’s public employee retirement system (PERS).

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This update provides an overview of the legislative candidates for a number of key races as we approach the May 15, 2018 primary election in Oregon.


But first, a voter registration reminder:  If you are not currently registered to vote, have moved since the last election, or wish to create or change your party affiliation, you can do so on the Oregon Secretary of State website: In order to participate in the primary, you must register (and designate a party if you are currently unaffiliated[*]) by Tuesday, April 24.

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