University leaders seek independence

Oregon’s higher education leaders say that independence from the legislature could save millions of dollars.

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Presidents of Oregon’s seven universities and the state board of higher education are seeking independence from the legislature similar to that of community colleges.

Independence could save millions of dollars and provide new fundraising opportunities, they say, in a time when public universities nationwide are needing to find a new business model or face decline.

In Oregon, the erosion is driving state and university leaders to look for a change. Adjusting for inflation, state funding for the university system dropped 16 percent over the two decades ending in 2009 while enrollment increased by 27 percent. Twenty years ago, Oregon college students shouldered about 30 percent of the cost of their education; now their tuition covers about 70 percent of the cost.

The university system could save money in a variety of ways just by terminating its state agency status, Chancellor George Pernsteiner wrote last week in a paper on possible changes.


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