Higher education funding should be increased

By Observer editorial February 28, 2012 12:29 pm

Oregon has been cutting state funding for higher education since 1990 and the results are alarming.

For the first time in history, the generation of Oregonians ages 55 to 64 is better educated than their 25- to 34-year-old counterparts.

Statistics show that 32.6 percent of the older generation have at least a bachelor’s degree from a college or university, compared to 27.1 percent of the younger generation.

That is but one example of the impact of two decades of higher education funding cuts by the legislature.

The OUS is expected to receive $669.2 million from the state in 2011-13 ---- $85.7 million less than it was given by the state in 1999-01.

In 2000, OUS campuses received $4,736 from the state per full-time student. Today they are getting $2,704, or $2,112 when the payments are adjusted for inflation.

To make up the difference, OUS has had to raise tuition again and again.

 In 2000, the average undergraduate tuition for a full-time student in the OUS was $3,442.

Today, it is $7,102 and twice as difficult for students to afford. 

Some of the state funding cuts to higher education are due to the current poor economy, but Oregon headed down this path when voters approved Measure 5 in 1990.

Measure 5 dramatically reduced property tax rates and left it to the state legislature to provide most of the funding for K-12 public schools. As a result, the state has been left with significantly less funding for higher education.

Two decades of funding cuts and tuition hikes have followed. Further cuts to higher education funding will jeopardize the state’s economic future.

There is a direct relationship between a state’s economic health and the number of college graduates it has.

“You can explain statistically about 60 percent of the variation of incomes among states’ per capita incomes by knowing one thing: what fraction of the adult population has a four-year degree,” said Joe Cortright, chairman of the Governor’s Council of Economic Advisors.

Cortright added, “It really does matter how well you educate your people as to how good of jobs you get and what kind of incomes you have as a state.”

Without a well-educated work force, Oregon will not have the bright economic future we would all like.

So it is imperative that the Oregon legislature provide more funding for higher education and help more students get their bachelor’s degrees.