ASPSU debriefs restructuring at town hall meeting

ASPSU held a town hall meeting on March 3 to discuss restructuring and other related bills currently under review by the Oregon Legislature.

ASPSU held a town hall meeting on March 3 to discuss restructuring and other related bills currently under review by the Oregon Legislature. 

Members of ASPSU spoke about the bills and provided an overview of ASPSU’s structure. Concerns about rising tuition rates were a theme. 

The state has allocated less and less money to higher education since 1990, said ASPSU President Katie Markey. Oregon is now ranked 45th in the United States as an allocator of funds for higher education, with Oregon students paying 74 percent of state education costs.

Additional cuts to education funds are expected, and students are already graduating with an average debt of  $23,000. 

Markey went on to describe the education bills being considered by the Oregon Legislature.  

The controversial Senate Bill 242 proposes the restructuring of the Oregon University System. If passed, OUS would no longer be a state agency, but instead function as a public university system.

The bill also proposes less state oversight and more secure funding from tuition dollars. However, universities would be expected to meet standards of enrollment, affordability, graduation rates and other measures of accountability. 

The OUS Governance Proposal would change the power structure of Oregon’s public universities. The proposal dictates that tuition paid by students would stay with universities to support instruction and could not be relocated to fund other state agencies. Earned interest on tuition money would also remain with universities.  

Under the proposal, universities would no longer need legislative consent to use on-hand funds unless the money came from state appropriations or state general obligation bonds.  

Markey described a severe power outage that hit Oregon State University earlier this year, causing property damage that could not be repaired until the Oregon Legislature approved the use of funds. 

Markey discussed Senate Bill 559 next, which proposes that the University of Oregon withdraw from the Oregon University System, establish a public governing board and re-imagine its funding. 

Markey also brought up Senate Bill 253, the “40-40-20” bill that passed in February. The goal of the bill is to see 40 percent of Oregonians with bachelors degrees, 40 percent with associates degrees and 20 percent with at least a high school diploma by the year 2025. 

Few students attended the meeting, but ASPSU continues to strive for greater student involvement.  

“The goal is to have more outreach events next term than we have in the past in order to educate and empower more students to have the opportunity to talk with decision-makers and advocate for issues that affect them,” Marcus Sis, ASPSU director of Legislative Affairs, said.

Last Thursday, Oregon students gathered in Salem for an outreach event in support of Senate Bill 742, also known as the Tuition Equity Bill.

This bill would guarantee in-state tuition to graduates of Oregon high schools, regardless of immigration status. To qualify, students would need to have completed three years of K–12 education in Oregon, graduated from an Oregon high school and intend to become U.S. citizens. 

“It was great to see so many different students from across the state have the chance to testify,” Sis said. 

ASPSU will be partnering with PSU groups such as the PSU Alumni Association to travel to Salem on March 17 in order to speak with state representatives about student issues. ?