President Michael Schill called for increased affordability and higher graduation rates as he hosted his first University of Oregon all-campus address in the Erb Memorial Union Ballroom at 11 a.m. today. The public address came after he announced on Oct. 30 his commitment to improve access, retention and graduation rates for UO students.
Schill took the stage after a large audience watched a video about students’ experiences with PathwayOregon, a UO scholarship program that offers free tuition and fees for four years to Oregonian students that are Pell Grant eligible.
“Today, we are here to celebrate the accomplishments of PathwayOregon,” Schill said. “We are here to celebrate, but also to say that is not enough.”
He discussed three main objectives that he wanted to complete as president: ensuring student access and affordability, building academic programs by hiring new faculty and investing in research and delivering a diverse experience for students both inside and outside the classroom. Schill also addressed the need to overcome barriers that are preventing current and future students from graduating college.
“There are four primary barriers: institutional, financial, academic and social,” Schill said. “If we are to keep our promise of access and success, we must address all four.”
Another goal that he addressed was increasing UO’s graduation rate by at least 10 percentage points by 2020.
Schill then announced the Oregon Commitment, a plan of seven initiatives and investments totaling $17 million over five years to support his goals. The first is supporting pipeline programs that will improve the quality of K-12 education in Oregon, as he stated earlier in his address that in 2014, Oregon ranked 46th out of 50 states for K-12 graduation rates. The second initiative is expanding funding for scholarships and financial aid for students. Third was Schill’s announcement that the university will immediately invest over $500,000 each academic year to reinvent advising and tutoring programs at the university in order to improve graduation rates.
“We must all join together to assess, on a department-by-department basis, what impediments exist to graduation and reduce those barriers,” Schill said.
His fourth initiative is providing graduation completion grants to over 100 juniors and seniors who are at the highest risk of dropping out due to financial circumstances. Fifth is hiring more faculty that will emphasize the importance of students graduating in four years. The sixth is the plan to incentivize on-time graduation through university-related structural changes. Schill’s seventh and final initiative is expanding programs such as First-Year Interest Groups and study abroad for students, as these activities will help students become more connected to the university.
“This promise of access and success for all of our students – the Oregon commitment – is one we must keep,” Schill said. “Students all across our campus must succeed.”