CORVALLIS, Ore. - Though the financial picture for the state of Oregon continues to be shaky, Oregon State University is on sound financial footing, thanks to careful financial management, strong enrollment growth and unprecedented success in competitive research funding and private fundraising, OSU President Edward J. Ray said Thursday in his annual State of the University address to the Faculty Senate.
At last Friday's state Board of Higher Education, further general revenue budget cuts for the current fiscal year were announced for OSU and the state's other six public universities. Despite that, OSU's growing enrollment - up this year by approximately 2,000 students - is providing a financial cushion against the bleak state budget picture, the president said.
Ray repeated a promise he made in a university-wide budget forum at the end of the last school year: If the legislature allows OSU to manage and spend the tuition students pay to attend the university, OSU will make it through the current biennium without double-digit tuition increases, layoffs or further furloughs for employees beyond those already being experienced by OSU's classified staff members.
"If you take nothing else away from today's discussion, I hope you'll leave with the fact that the financial state of our university is sound," Ray told university senators and other faculty, staff and students gathered for the yearly talk.
The university is also going forward with key investments, including hiring 30 new faculty members in critical interdisciplinary areas (half of them in the Arts and Sciences), enhancing information technology and research infrastructure and renovating and upgrading classrooms, 38 of which were completed over the summer. Thirty new faculty positions will be offered next year, too, and $2.5 million will be made available for instructors in Arts and Sciences this year.
Ray acknowledged that the growth of OSU over the past few years coupled with anticipated growth over the next 15 years that likely will see enrollment expand from its current status of about 24,000 to perhaps 30,000 or so has created stress around the community. In response, he is stepping up efforts to invest in academic advising and graduate student recruiting and expanding OSU's overall physical capacities. Ray is also creating an ombudsperson position reporting to him - "a strong acknowledgement that relationship challenges in a complex organization are inevitable, but we are committed to creating additional mechanisms through which we can address those challenges."
Ray said OSU is focused most strongly now on three areas: Increasing retention rates for students, as well as graduation rates, particularly among diverse and international student populations; building new research relationships between the university and industry partners, especially in Oregon; and building on the strong success of the Campaign for OSU, which has already raised some $620 million.
The university's sustainability is "no small accomplishment as we crawl out of the worst economic recession since the Great Depression of the 1930s," Ray reminded listeners, in closing. "A lot of smart and very hard decisions have been made to get us to this point financially. ...Financial security and a sense of common cause, which derives from a vibrant and cohesive community, are both critical to realizing the potential of this wonderful university."
The full text of President Ray's remarks may be found at http://bit.ly/cR1Dlq.
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President Edward J. Ray