UO president and state higher ed leaders confer at Portland symposium

Connie Green of Tillamook Bay Community College, Larry Large of Oregon Association of Independent Colleges and UO's Michael Gottfredson (photo by Jennifer Winters)

Higher education leaders from across the state met in Portland on Wednesday to collaborate and share information about higher education goals and governance changes.

The Oregon Business Council hosted the Higher Education Leadership Symposium at the Portland Art Museum. Oregon Gov. John Kitzhaber and Tim Nesbit, chair of the new Higher Education Coordinating Commission, told the crowd of educators that they must work together to be successful.

University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson served as a panelist in a discussion about 40-40-20, the state’s ambitious goal to educate more Oregonians. The plan aspires by 2025 to have 40 percent of Oregon adults earn bachelor’s degrees or higher, 40 percent receive associate degrees or post-secondary credentials, and 20 percent earn high school diplomas or an equivalent.

Gottfredson pointed to Connected Lane County as an example of a successful local partnership to help more students earn higher education degrees. Connected Lane County brings the presidents of the UO and Lane Community College, Eugene-Springfield superintendents and early education advocates together each month to coordinate services and support that will help students succeed as they transition though school.

“This is a collaborative effort in which we all have student success at the top of mind," Gottfredson said. "We all know that each of our institutions can work together to make school transitions more seamless and create life-long learning success. That will translate into more economic prosperity, discovery and innovation in the state of Oregon.”

The UO has made great strides in enrollment, retention and graduate rates. The university enrolled its most diverse class of freshman in history last fall. It retained 87 percent of freshman, up from 77 percent a decade ago. And the UO's 6-year graduate rate has grown to 68 percent.

Gottfredson credits programs such as PathwayOregon – which provides tuition, fees and ongoing guidance to Pell Grant-eligible students – for improving outcomes for vulnerable students.

The Higher Education Leadership Symposium also focused on the changes in higher education governance. The UO’s new Board of Trustees met on campus last week to elect board leadership and approve by-laws.

- by Jennifer Winters, UO Office of Strategic Communications