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Tuition money should go toward education

May 4th, 2011

Published: May 04. 2011 4:00AM PST by Bend Bulletin

Surely, this can’t be the best way to run Oregon’s university system.

The Legislature can take tuition money that students and families pay and spend it on something other than education. The Legislature can even swipe the interest.

There’s more. The Legislature gives Oregon universities less money per student than in all but five other states. The level of state support has dropped by some 16 percent for the 20 years ending in 2009.

And then the Legislature goes on to dictate the size of tuition and how the schools should spend their money in hundreds of line items.

Add it up. The Legislature gives Oregon’s higher education less and less, can take tuition students and families are forced to pay more of and then tells the university system how to spend a lot of the money that is left.

That is bad. Very bad.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s Office released a report this week on faculty efficiency in the Oregon University System. There was a legislative hearing on the audit today.

Now, we don’t dispute that there are more than likely ways in which the university system could use its faculty more efficiently. The audit states that faculty workload and student demand for courses is not comprehensively tracked.

Oversight is an important role for the Legislature. It could spend hours, even months, debating how much time faculty should spend teaching and doing research and the advantages and disadvantages of having graduate students teach many courses.

Instead of doing that, let’s talk about what the Legislature can do now. Pass Senate Bill 242.

SB 242 would give Oregon’s colleges and universities more autonomy to set and spend tuition and manage programs. The Legislature would still get to set performance goals for the system. It could set benchmarks for things like time to graduate, affordability, access for Oregon students and degrees. It could even, if it wanted, ask the university system to better track faculty workload and student demand for courses. Schools would still have to follow Oregon laws on openness, ethics and auditing.

Most importantly, the money paid for education would go toward education. That’s something more fundamental than that efficiency study. It is putting money where Oregon families intend it, not where the Legislature wants it. Call your legislator and ask what they are going to do to get SB 242 out of subcommittee and up for a vote.

Published Daily in Bend Oregon by Western Communications, Inc. © 2010


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