“Universities complicit in income inequality,” OSU president says

Ed Ray delivered a rousing state of the university speech to more than 800 alumni, civic leaders, faculty and students today at the Oregon Convention Center. 

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The speech was part of a year-long celebration of the university’s 150-year anniversary.

Ray rattled off an impressive list of fundraising stats and announced several new initiatives.

The College of Veterinary Medicine received a $50 million gift from Gary R. Carlson, whose name will grace the first named college at OSU, Ray said. Grant money is up 31% compared to 2016.

By next fall, the university will occupy the entire second floor of the Meier & Frank building in Portland, part of the university’s plan to “paint downtown orange,” he said. 

Ray said donors contributed $383 million to OSU over the past three years.

It’s not enough to offset the cost of college. According to Ray, the state now pays 21.6% of OSU’s tuition cost, down 50% from the 67.3% it contributed 15 years ago.

More startling was Ray’s admission that colleges are vehicles for income inequality.

Higher education is “complicit in worsening income inequality around the nation,” he said. Ray cited stats showing college graduation rates for students in the lowest income bracket nationwide rose only three percentage points over the past 50 years, from  6% in 1970 to 9% today.

Graduation rates for students in the highest income bracket, by contrast, ballooned from 44% in 1970 to 85% today. 

“The achievement gap has doubled,” Ray said.

OSU is seeking $39.4 million in state bonding this session for its Cascades campus.


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