UO’s academic plan beleaguered by lack of funding

The University of Oregon is retooling its plan for the future.

Since its inception under former provost Jim Bean, the UO’s academic plan has served as a road map toward establishing and achieving the university’s goals. The draft composed in 2009 included achieving and sustaining excellence within the American Association of Universities, promoting an intellectual community primarily by increasing research efforts and to enroll a diverse community.

Five years after the initial plan was conceptualized, there was a report released in November benchmarking the UO against its peers, which reveals there is a large amount of work that has to be done in all of those categories.

In comparison to the other 33 public research institutions included in the report, UO is below average in 22 of the metrics measured from the 2010-2011 year. Those ranks include 27th for research and development expenditures for tenure-related faculty, last for percent of tenure-related faculty of color and 21st for an average number of students of color.

According to Brad Shelton, vice provost for Budget and Planning, part of this is because of the limited financial resources available to UO. The university gets less than half of the average financial resources per students than other AAU school across all categories, including state funding, tuition, housing, parking and athletics revenue, Sheldon says.

“Something it tells us is that we need to refinance ourselves. I spend a lot of time on that issue because the state has progressively withdrawn sources and unfortunately that has put a lot of pressure on our fees,” UO President Michael Gottfredson said. “We need to find ways to finance our aspirations differently.”

Apart from raising tuition (except for Oregon residents) next year, Oregon will emphasize capital fundraising through the new independent governing board.

The capital campaign is still in the planning stage as UO administration decides on what priorities the funds should focus on. However, Shelton says that construction and campus infrastructure is a main focus.

“If we can build out our infrastructure through capital fundraising, then that would allow us to serve more students, and if we serve more students then we could improve the finances of the university,” Shelton said. “But that’s something we have to do very carefully and we are doing some analysis right now.”

Three basic areas administration is planning to concentrate on are increasing access and success for students, improving quality in education and looking into the financial health of the institution. The bigger the university gets, the bigger the struggle to accomplish these goals, Shelton says.

Regardless, Shelton is willing to try.

“This is about the university really solidifying its position as a comprehensive research university,” Shelton said. “I would hope that’s why most of the students who are here, are here.”

The next academic planning discussion will be on Feb. 14 from 8:30 a.m. – 10 a.m. in Gerlinger Lounge.

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Jennifer Hernandez

Jennifer Hernandez