SB 242 is good for higher ed in Oregon

By Observer editorial May 27, 2011 07:22 pm
The Oregon Legislative Assembly is nearing the end of its 2011 run, and among the myriad of bills still awaiting a decision is Senate Bill 242, which would give the Oregon University System greater responsibility for managing its own affairs “for the benefit of students and Oregonians.’’ The change is overdue and worthy of support. The bill would create a new system of higher education in Oregon, establishing a Higher Education Coordinating Commission that would bridge the gap between the OUS and community colleges. It would also change the OUS from being a state agency to a true university system, one that would submit funding requests each biennium along with what it calls a “performance compact’’ that would show how the system is meetings its goals.

The appropriated funds for the system would be allocated to OUS universities and the Office of the Chancellor by the Board of Higher Education. Most significantly, the OUS would retain all interest earnings on tuition as opposed to the current system that allows the Legislature to take any interest or savings, which it has done from time to time over the years. Also, the OUS would take over risk management responsibilities; could provide alternative group health insurance plans to employees; and capital construction projects that don’t require state funds could move ahead without waiting for the Legislature’s OK.

The new “system,’’ though it would be more independent in many ways, would still be accountable to the public; Oregon’s public records and meetings law would still apply. The OUS has provided assurances that nothing in the change in structure is intended to reduce the transparency of Oregon’s university system.

Oregon’s educational system is in need of structural change. SB 242 addresses that need as it pertains to higher education in Oregon, and is worthy of

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