By: Katie Fast, Executive Director of Government Relations
Today, the Oregon Legislature convenes it’s short 35-day session. Due to the short timeframe, each legislator is limited to introducing two bills and committees restricted to three. That does not mean that legislators won’t be tackling policy issues this year; in fact, reforms to Measure 110 and solutions to Oregon’s housing needs will be proposed.
Oregon State University is also tackling big issues and is looking to the state for partnership. Below are priorities that we are bring to the Oregon legislature:
- Impact of Conference Realignment: The decisions by some universities to leave the Pac-12 not only eroded our 108-year-old conference and legacy but created a significant budget shortfall for OSU Athletics. We need the legislature’s assistance to:
- Maintain OSU’s Commitment to Collegiate Athletic Scholarships: OSU commits $10.4 million annually toward athletic scholarships. As an Oregon public university, we have an obligation to continue supporting student-athletes who are bearing the real implications of conference realignment. For many student-athletes, their scholarships make college financially possible, and without that support, they lose their access to education.
The state of Oregon currently allocates 1% of the Administrative Services Economic Development Fund from the State Lottery Fund to the Sports Lottery Program. For the 2023-25 biennium, $18,329,943 was allocated. However, OSU will only receive about $650,000 annually because the university historically received multimillion-dollar media payments. Unfortunately, OSU can no longer expect the same media income after July 31, 2024. An additional 1% of lottery funds dedicated to OSU student-athletes would meet OSU’s athletic scholarship needs.
- Covering OSU Athletics’ COVID Deficit: COVID-19 health protection regulations placed financial burdens on university athletics departments nationwide. OSU faced more than a year of zero sporting event ticket sales while maintaining our financial commitments to student-athletes and athletics staff. Federal COVID support funds received could not be used to support intercollegiate athletics. The university therefore loaned OSU Athletics $31.8 million to cover its COVID-related deficit. The opportunities for athletics repayment have changed due to conference realignment and a subsequent dramatic drop in media income. OSU has an immediate need from the state to help cover this deficit.
- Building a Campus to Serve Central Oregon & the State: OSU- Cascades students and supporters are requesting $24 million to expedite the Phase 3 land remediation, which would create 81 contiguous acres for academic buildings and student housing. This is a critical step to meet growth needs of this innovative campus.
- Supporting Student’s Needs: We will be working with other public universities and students to request:
- $6 million in renewed funding for Strong Start 2.0: Continued funding for the Strong Start program is critical to ensure students are prepared and supported allowing them to succeed in a university environment. Initially a response to pandemic learning loss, Strong Start allows universities to offer comprehensive services including summer bridge programs, community- building cohorts, academic skill-building, and ongoing wraparound support. This state investment has led to greater retention rates, higher GPAs, and increased credit hour completion for participating students, compared to their peers.
- $5 million to strengthen student basic needs programs and infrastructure on university campuses, includes basic needs centers.
- $1 million in emergency funding to the Open Educational Resources (OERS) program to improve access to low- or no-cost course materials for the remainder of the biennium. Since 2015, Oregon OER grants have saved students $12 on course materials for every program dollar spent.
- Addressing Zoonotic Diseases: The Oregon and Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory (OVDL) plays a vital role in public health, responding to issues of serious concern for people and wildlife, including highly contagious bacterial disease, avian flu, and mosquito born illnesses. Consistent with recommendations from the legislative report directed by HB 4128 (2022), HB 4148 allocates $3.5 million for critical equipment and capacity necessary for the OVDL and the state Wildlife Health Lab to combat threats such as Chronic Wasting Disease and zoonotic diseases.
- Creating Pathways to Semiconductor Careers: In 2023, the legislature invested $200M in Oregon’s semiconductor sector. However, research and supporting the needed workforce was not addressed. HB 4154 invests $30 million in K-12 pathway programs, community colleges and public research universities to provide the faculty and tools focused on semiconductor related work.
To support OSU’s legislative priorities and easily engage with the legislature, consider joining the Beaver Caucus’s advocacy efforts. You can learn more here. https://thebeavercaucus.org/
Welcome New Members of the OSU Government Relations Team
Chance White Eyes joined OSU in December as Director of Tribal Relations. In this position, he will build and maintain collaborative, mutual and trusting relationships with Tribal nations within Oregon and beyond and consult with Oregon State leadership, colleges and programs to advance the university’s teaching, research and engagement missions.
White Eyes holds a doctorate in critical and socio-cultural studies in education from the University of Oregon and a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Oregon State. He is an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Wisconsin.
In November, Sherry Morgan started as Administrative Assistant. She previously worked in OSU Academics for Student Athletes. In this role, she is managing the office’s administrative needs and assisting tracking bills of interest to OSU and our community.
Katheryn Yetter, OSU University Policy & Standards Specialist, is taking on additional duties and supporting OSU’s advocacy efforts in Salem. We are fortunate for prior the legislative experience Katheryn brings to the team.