UO president shares university refinancing vision at APLU meeting

UO President Michael Gottfredson and Kimberly Espy, vice president for research

University of Oregon President Michael Gottfredson shared his vision for refinancing the university to sustain its public mission in a time of decreased state support during a panel presentation at the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU) in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

The APLU represents 219 public universities, land-grant institutions and state university systems. The organization’s annual meeting brings together leaders from higher education to share best practices and work on critical issues facing universities.  

Gottfredson presented before a packed room of about 200 people at a session entitled "Implications of Evolving Funding Models for Public Research Universities." He was joined on the panel by leadership from the University of Colorado, University of Florida, University of Oklahoma and the Association of American Universities.

The president noted the University of Oregon’s history of declining state appropriations that has totaled a loss of more than $30 million in annual support since 2008. He explained that this decline has led to increased dependence on non-resident tuition. While he stressed that the university has not replaced Oregon students with non-residents, he cautioned that growing non-resident enrollment isn’t a sustainable practice, or a practice that supports the university’s commitment to serving Oregonians.

The president explained how the new governing boards, authorized by the legislature in Senate Bill 270, will offer creative financing solutions to the UO, as well as Oregon State University and Portland State University.  He said the change that established the institutional governing boards will increase the UO’s flexibility to manage its own resources and serve its mission of improving access to quality higher education for Oregon students.

Hunter Rawlings, the president of the Association of American Universities, cited the creation of institutional boards as one of several recent bright spots for higher education.

"The complete alteration in governance is clearly much better than before when the University of Oregon was in a system where it could not stand out as a flagship university," he said.

An audience member asked the president if the UO had considered going private, given the low level of state support, to which Gottfredson responded, "I thought about it and dismissed it out of hand. We are never ever going to give up on the state or argue that the state doesn't have an interest in the University of Oregon." 

Kimberly Espy, the vice president for research and innovation and dean of the graduate school, also attended the APLU annual meeting. She is a member of the Council on Research Policy and Graduate Education, which hosted the panel discussion on university funding.

- by Jennifer Winters, UO Office of Strategic Communications