EOU needs long-term solution

By Observer editorial April 26, 2013 09:22 am
Imagine La Grande without a college.

Imagine Eastern Oregon University with huge lecture halls and professors lecturing to hundreds of students at a time, the students’ eyes glazing over.

Imagine college being affordable only to the rich and upper middle class.

As the John Lennon song says, imagining such things is easy if you try. But it is not a pretty picture — and not acceptable if La Grande’s economy is to thrive.

It’s important for EOU officials to get to the roots of the budget crisis and look for long-term solutions, not quick fixes, so we’re not on a continual budget roller-coaster ride. We will face more economic recessions. We will face more public funding policy challenges. We need a plan to smooth out the bumps.

Here’s the lowdown on the current crisis. Eastern is on course to spend $1.2 million more than it will receive in revenue in 2012-13. EOU is projected to lose a similar amount in 2013-14 unless steps are taken to reverse its budget course. 

A quality, affordable education is important, to students and to the community. A quality education equals economic opportunity not just for the students but for the community. It’s time to reverse the disinvestment in education that has been plaguing the state since the deep recession of the early 1980s.

Bold steps

Bold steps are being taken. According to EOU President Bob Davies, a hiring freeze has been implemented for the rest of the school year. 

More bold steps will need to follow. Numerous options are on the table, none pleasant, including furlough days for non-union staff and possibly bigger class sizes.

Smaller class sizes generally equals the achievement of bigger educational goals. EOU prides itself in its ability to offer smaller class sizes and more one-on-one time with professors. EOU has been able to offer a human-scale school, not a factory outlet, and it should be kept that way as much as possible.

Faculty and staff cuts should not occur until all other options have been exhausted. And naturally, faculty and staff are worried about the outcomes, which does not make for a positive learning environment. More will be known when a draft financial sustainability plan is released in mid May. A final plan is expected out the first part of June. 

The Oregon Student Association is rightly campaigning in Salem to get more funding for Oregon universities and community colleges, as well as a budget increase for financial aid programs. Students should not continue to pay more and get

It’s not time for Band-Aids. It’s time for securing the long-term financial health of our universities.

An education investment now saves higher costs later. An investment in education will draw money and business to the community. 

Imagine a vibrant future for Oregon. Imagine timely local solutions and state solutions to make the university system strong for years to come.