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Gov's aide reacts to U of O student-body shifts

By Matt McDonald
Published On: May 22 2013 01:06:38 AM CDT
Updated On: May 22 2013 01:21:42 AM CDT

In Part 2 of his special report, NewsChannel 21's Matt McDonald talks to a top aide to Gov. John Kitzhaber about how higher-paying out-of-state students making up a larger segment of the University of Oregon.

SALEM, Ore. -

The state of Oregon has a clear goal. It's called 40-40-20 -- a plan by the governor  to reach levels of 40 percent of Oregonians with a bachelor's degree, 40 with a 2-year degree and 20 with at least a high school degree.

"We're not interested in pumping more dollars, state dollars, into universities to serve more out of state students," said Ben Cannon, the chief education adviser to Governor Kitzhaber.  He explains the real concern is getting Oregon to the 40-40-20 goal.

"We're concerned about the capacity of our system, including the University of Oregon," Cannon said recently.

Over the last 10 years, enrollment of Oregonians at U of O is down slightly -- this while the state gave $90 million in tax dollars to the university in the last 2-year budget cycle.

"We'll be concerned if the state investment in that institution isn't matched by results for Oregon students," said Cannon.

State funding for all public universities has been falling for the past six years.  That's put universities in a tough spot to make their budgets.  The options: Raise tuition, cut programs or accept more high paying out of state students.

"In many ways, a non-resident student actually helps us keep the cost down for an Oregon resident," said Dr. Roger Thompson, vice president of enrollment at U of O.

Thanks in part to the huge influx of out-of-state tuition dollars, U of O has excelled in maintaining programs and helping students.

"We have the highest graduation rates of and university in the state of Oregon," said Thompson.

But to meet the 40-40-20 goal, more Oregonians will have to graduate from Oregon schools.  The plan from the state to encourage universities to attract more Oregon students is simple: Tie state funding to success.

"The universities understand, their likelihood and ability to get state funding is tied to, and increasingly so, their ability to serve Oregon students," said Cannon.

For U of O, that may mean admitting more in-state students, or potentially see less money coming from the state, this as state lawmakers debate a budget that has a proposed increase in funding for Oregon's public universities -- the first in six years.

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