A bill recently passed by the Oregon Legislature and awaiting the signature of Gov. John Kitzhaber will make money available to the University of Oregon and Oregon State University that was originally set aside for the two institutions more than 150 years ago.
Under House Bill 2033, the State Treasury will turn over to the Oregon University System $109,877 from funding earmarked for UO purposes in 1859, and another $326,543 from a fund designated for OSU in 1862.
Both pots of federal money were originally held by the Department of State Lands, to be loaned back to the universities for specific purposes. No money from the funds has been used in at least the past 20 years.
The new legislation will transfer all of the money to OUS. UO and OSU have indicated that the funds will be used for scholarships.
Congress originally sent the money to UO and OSU at a time federal lawmakers were trying to establish a network of public universities across the country. The UO money came from the sale of state land, specified in the 1859Act of Admission that made Oregon a state, for the establishment of a public university. The OSU money was a result of the Morrill Act of 1862, which established U.S. land grant institutions.
The UO and most other public research universities in the U.S. can trace their roots to a national commitment embodied in the creation of the country's land grant institutions.
The UO's creation was a condition the Oregon act of admission, which required the new state to sell public land to help launch the university.