PORTLAND, Ore. - Oregon State University President Edward J. Ray today called on the Oregon Legislature to change course and make state funding for higher education a priority.
"We are at a crossroads, and the path we take will determine the state's future and the future of all Oregonians," Ray said during his annual State of the University Address that drew 750 people to the Oregon Convention Center today.
"Oregon's disinvestment in higher education must not continue. After being adjusted for inflation, our state's support for higher education has declined 21.7 percent since 2008 - 20 percent more than the national average rate of decline."
Ray called on Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon legislators to "make college students and their future a priority for this state."
In his speech, Ray also announced that the OSU Foundation had committed to raise $150 million to support Oregon State's Student Success Initiative that aims to grow student access to Oregon State and increase substantially student retention and graduation rates by 2020.
Ray reported that the OSU Foundation has already raised more than one-third of its goal, money that will bolster the Student Success Initiative by supporting scholarships, student experiential learning "and other programs that will help all students reach their full potential."
Without increased state funding, Ray said, student tuition may likely be increased by as much as 9 percent or more at some of Oregon's universities; educational quality will suffer; and student programs will be cut.
"This impact is landing on the backs of students and their families as tuition now pays 66.9 percent of the cost of Oregon State's Corvallis campus educational operations and the state only 21.4 percent. This represents more than a 50 percent decline in the state's contribution from 15 years ago. And a 43 percent increase in the share that student tuition pays."
Ray said Oregon's seven public university presidents are seeking a $100 million increase in state operating funds for the 2017-19 biennium and that Oregon State is asking for $69.5 million in state bonding to continue expanding the OSU-Cascades campus in Bend - $49.5 million more than proposed by the governor.
Ray rolled out the Student Success Initiative one year ago, calling on the university within four years to make an OSU degree an affordable reality for every qualified Oregonian.
The initiative included by 2020 raising first-year retention rates for all undergraduate students to 90 percent; raising six-year graduation rates for all undergraduate students to 70 percent; achieving higher completion rates for all groups of graduate and doctoral students; and ensuring that every OSU student has at least one experiential learning opportunity such as an internship or study-abroad experience.
"I am all in for the Student Success Initiative," Ray said. "As a first-generation college student myself, this is personal, and I am committed to double down and deliver. There is nothing worse for any student than to leave college without a degree - and for the only piece of paper they can show to be a bank statement from their student loan debt.
"While all of our graduates represent the future of Oregon, the nation and the world, it is simply not acceptable that some students have opportunities and others do not."
Ray said that without requested state bonding, OSU-Cascades' second classroom building will not open until 2023 at the earliest.
"That the Oregon Legislature would delay serving the demand for higher education in the fastest-growing region in the state is not credible," he said.
"In 2025 OSU-Cascades will contribute $197.8 million in total annual economic output throughout Oregon," Ray said. "Campus operations and construction activities will support $72.7 million in annual employee compensation and be responsible for 2,083 jobs across the state. This will result in an additional $3.43 million in annual state income taxes."
Ray said in 2034, with 5,000 students, OSU-Cascades' operations and construction activities will contribute $273.7 million in total annual economic output; $98.6 million in annual wages; 3,662 jobs across the state; and $4.83 million paid in annual state taxes.
"I know that Central Oregon residents would say they have waited long enough for a four-year university," he said. "I hope that all Oregonians will agree that this university campus and its statewide benefits are long overdue."
In his address, Ray said that 2016 had been another year of notable achievements for Oregon State. Among these:
Ray also noted that Oregon State's robotics program, ranked best in the western U.S. and fourth in the nation, has 11 of the country's top robotics faculty who work with 100 graduate and undergraduate students in "demonstrating how robots and artificial intelligence can operate in the real world."
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