UO Board of Trustees committee discusses “troubling” decrease in student course loads, future campus redesign

The Finance and Facilities committee, a subcommittee of the University of Oregon Board of Trustees, met Thursday morning to discuss remedies for increased enrollment and delayed graduation. This is in preparation for the once-a-term full board meeting tomorrow morning at the Ford Alumni Center.

Here are the highlights from this morning’s Finance and Facilities committee meeting:

UO President Michael Schill expresses concerns about students’ course loads:

  • Schill brought attention to what he called a “troubling” decrease in the average UO student’s course load per term. He suggested that the trend — just 49 percent of UO students graduate in four years — is making college less affordable for many students.
    • “We’re looking at it, but we don’t know why our credits are going down,” Schill said.
  • Schill suggested a future tuition plateau, which would allow full-time students to pay roughly the same price for tuition each term regardless of how many credits they take, may be a solution. Board member Ann Curry expressed interest in the idea.
    •  Though he was not specific, Schill also suggested that the UO may look into adding financial incentives for students to graduate on time.

Campus planning specialist Robert Sabbatini proposes architectural solutions for increased enrollment:

  • Sabbatini, an architect, suggested that the campus could benefit by building two new academic facilities:
    • A science research building along the south side Franklin Boulevard that would connect to the Lewis Integrative Science Building using a pedestrian bridge
    • A duel university classroom and faculty office center.
  • He also outlined possible remodeling scenarios for Huestis, Condon and Deady Halls; a pedestrian-bicycle bridge across Franklin Boulevard; multiple parking structures and a new city park along the Willamette River,.
  • Schill suggested that adding these new buildings, which would increase enrollment and faculty hiring, would likely be the university’s first priority.
  • The proposals all stem from the Campus Visual Framework Project, an initiative started two summers ago to help the university accommodate rising enrollment — up to 34,000. The Jane Sanders Softball Stadium and the building of a new residence hall are some notable results of the project.
  • The one concern about the vision came from board member Susan Gary, who pointed out that the proposals did not take into account the impact on the surrounding neighborhoods. She recommended that the Board talk to neighborhood associations before forming any future proposals.

Here is more information on the campus redesign proposal and an overview of the rest of this morning’s meeting.

Follow Jack Heffernan on Twitter: @JackTHeffernan. 

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