Oregon University System fights state legislature to prevent budget cuts

For more information on the Oregon Student Association’s lobbying efforts on Tuesday, click here.

The Oregon University System is currently lobbying the state legislature to not make any more budget cuts this session past the 3.5 percent already set aside by the state, but growing disinvestment in higher education may lead to more cuts.

“These cuts have a direct negative impact on the students,” said OUS official Di Saunders @@[email protected]@. “We cannot afford to continue in that direction.”

Saunders said that the OUS is not on a list of $4 million worth of possible cuts drafted by Gov. John Kitzhaber, but it is not off the table for the legislature to make cuts.

“We’re at risk of losing a lot of students out of our system,” Saunders said. “We are pushing to get the legislature to understand that.”

University Provost Lorraine Davis@@ said that the University is hoping for the best but expecting the worst by preparing budget models that cushion for potential cuts. She also said that any state-level budget cuts will most likely lead to increases in tuition for Oregon students.

“If the funds aren’t there and the state support isn’t there, we have to replace those dollars with state tuition dollars,” Davis said. “We need to make sure that we deliver an education at the level of excellence that is expected and we are committed to that.”

OUS officials like Saunders are worried that continued disinvestment will hinder the system from meeting the goals that it has set for itself, particularly the 40-40-20 @@[email protected]@educational attainment goals.

“We are not going to meet 40-40-20 if we keep going in this direction,” Saunders said.

Despite the possibility of more cuts, record-high enrollment combined with the highest tuition rates the state has ever seen is providing a small buffer. According to projections from the State Board of Higher Education@@[email protected]@, the OUS will have a combined reserve fund of a $192.7 million by June 30. This reserve could be used to stifle future tuition increases.

Students from across the OUS are also getting their voice heard in the capital, as the Oregon Student Association held a lobby day in Salem today. They lobbied to protect funds from the Oregon Student Access Commission@@ that gives scholarships to low-income and underprivileged students across the state, notably the Oregon Opportunity Grant@@

The OUS and many students will keep fighting cutbacks to higher education as the current legislative sessions moves forward, but no budget decisions are expected to be final until the current session comes to a close.

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