UO agenda for 2015 legislature focuses on access and success

An increase in funding to invest in student access and success through scholarship, retention and tenure-track faculty is the University of Oregon’s priority during the 2015 Oregon Legislative session.

The UO joined the state’s other public universities and community colleges in asking the governor and legislature to return higher education funding to prerecession levels.

During the 2013 session, the focus was on returning K-12 funding to levels last seen in 2007. In a letter to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, 24 university and community college presidents requested funding that is similar to those levels, with $650 million for the Community College Support Fund and $755 million for the Public University Support Fund.

“With this level of support, we can move beyond the decade-long cycle of cuts and focus on critical investments in financial aid, student support and academic offerings,” said Hans Bernard, associate vice president for state and community affairs. “The state can once again invest in educating Oregon students, elevating the middle class and growing the state’s economy.”

The UO has identified four areas of investment that could be made with increased appropriations from the legislature. Each of these programs or initiatives is designed to improve access for Oregonians, ensure students have the resources and support needed to graduate on time and improve the academic experience of the students:

  • PathwayOregon: This successful signature program ensures that Oregonians who are high achieving and Pell Grant eligible have their UO tuition and fees fully paid. The program currently serves 1,724 students, while also providing intensive advising and other support for students. With additional funding, UO anticipates it could expand the PathwayOregon program by hundreds of students each year.
  • Graduate Assistance Grant Program: Many undergraduate Oregon students — especially those from middle-income families — exhaust their federal loan eligibility before graduation. Many end up withdrawing before earning a degree. Under this proposal, the Graduate Assistance Grant Program would provide assistance to juniors and seniors who meet specific requirements. The goal is to award approximately 400 grants of $10,000 each year, improving four-year resident graduation rates by 4.5 to 7 percent.
  • Retention and completion initiative: This multifaceted, integrated plan would bring institutionwide enhancements in student engagement and support services. The initiative would include advising, learning support and enrichment via six interrelated programs.
  • Expand tenure-track faculty: This initiative would increase tenure-track faculty ranks by 120, with a strong emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math fields. Half of the new faculty positions would be funded by state investment. Completion of this initiative would improve the student to tenure-related faculty at the UO to a ratio of approximately 29 to 1.

“All Oregonians deserve the chance to provide for themselves and their families, and the state should do its part to ensure access to an affordable and quality postsecondary degree for all students in Oregon,” Bernard said.

—By Heidi Hiaasen, Public Affairs Communications