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Students study at Pierce Library at Eastern Oregon University on Thursday. Eastern and all of Oregonís state universities will benefit if Gov. John Kitzhaberís proposed 2013-15 budget is adopted by the state. The budget would boost Oregon University System funding by 6.6 percent. CHRIS BAXTER - The Observer
The recent release of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s proposed 2013-15 budget is good news for Eastern Oregon University — with one exception.
First the good news, and it is very encouraging. The budget calls for the Oregon University System to receive a 6.6 percent increase in funding. If approved, this would be the highest increase the OUS has received in several years.
“The funding increase EOU would receive would allow the university to continue providing its current level of service,” EOU President Bob Davies said.
The budget also calls for Eastern to receive a 7 percent increase in Rural Access Program funding. The program provides funds for enhancing the educational service EOU provides throughout Eastern Oregon.
The proposed 7 percent increase would boost what EOU receives for its Rural Access Program by $30,000 to almost $500,000.
On the flip side of the budget equation, Kitzhaber is proposing that no funding from the Oregon Lottery be given to state university athletic programs. The money would instead be diverted to other portions of the higher education budget.
Davies said Eastern would lose about $350,000 a year in money earmarked for athletic scholarships. The money is now used to provide scholarships to EOU student athletes in all sports. The scholarships range from $250 to $13,000 a year, with most in the $3,000 to $4,000 range. Women receive the majority of scholarships provided by the lottery funding.
Davies said the loss of the funding would complicate things for Eastern in several ways. One reason is that it would make it harder for Eastern to comply with Title IX requirements since the loss of funding would have greater impact on women’s sports. Title IX is the federal law requiring university institutions to provide equitable funding and resources for men’s and women’s athletic programs at state funded educational institutions.
Davies said Eastern would be hard pressed to provide equal funding for men’s and women’s athletic programs without the sports lottery funding.
About 350 of the approximately 2,000 on-campus students at Eastern are members of its athletic teams. The majority are outstanding students. Davies student-athletes have a higher overall grade point average than the general student body and that the women student athletes have a higher graduation rate than overall student body.
The EOU president stressed the release of the governor’s proposed budget is only the beginning of the budget process for 2013-15. The House and Senate will propose its own budgets or alter the governor’s. Later, the House and Senate will vote on approval of the budget which will then go to Kitzhaber for his signature. The budget process likely will not be completed until early summer, meaning that there is plenty of time to address concerns.
“This is the tip off of a very long basketball game,’’ Davies said.
The president is confident that a resolution to the concern he and otter Oregon University System presidents have about the possible loss of lottery funds for athletics.
“This is a statewide issue which will impact every public university. I think we will come together to reach a solution which will meet everyone’s needs,’’ Davies said.
Despite the proposed cut in lottery funding for sports, Davies believes that Kitzhaber’s proposed budget is good for the Oregon University System and and schools in general.
“Overall, on education matters the budget is very forward looking,’ Davies said.
Even if Eastern receives an 8 percent boost in funding per student, Davies said his university will continue to face significant financial challenges due to rising costs.
“(The proposed increase in OUS funding) would allow us to sustain our programs but we still would have to be very cost conscious,” Davies said. “We would have to stay extraordinary disciplined and focused on the financial challenges ahead of us.’’