Dear Gov. Kitzhaber,
We here at the Vanguard have noticed something a little strange about your proposed budget for the coming biennium. Notably, it lacks $96 million for higher education. We sincerely hope this is a typo.
You have made it clear that higher education has not been a priority for you during your entire tenure as governor. So students have turned to more sympathetic legislators to institute two consecutive tuition freezes and to increase the overall higher ed budget last year.
Fortunately, those legislators have been able to convince you that when you invest in education, you need to invest in higher ed as well as K-12.
Students have been cajoled, admonished and shamed by legislators who have said that lawmakers could not ensure such a friendly atmosphere for students if they continued not to vote.
In response to the Capitol’s pleas that students become constituents, the student population turned out in droves last November to show that we do care and that we will vote. The Oregon Student Association registered over 2,000 students at Portland State alone and voter participation was up 13 percent in student-heavy areas.
But now that we’ve shown you we’re serious, you’ve decided to punish us. Now, your actions are telling us that voting doesn’t matter; that even when students turn out in record numbers, you’re still going to give us the shaft.
You plan to augment the proposed $96 million cut with two consecutive four-percent tuition increases totaling around $200 per term, per student if fees don’t rise as well. And all this only months after Oregon received a D- grade in higher ed affordability, according to a national study as reported by The Oregonian.
You want to give students fewer services for more money. The math doesn’t make sense. How can we pay more, but get less? That’s like showing us a piece of candy that sells for a nickel but charging us a quarter, as OSA board member Mary Cunningham put it.
You also seem to believe that you cut our budget by far less than $96 million because of the money you allocated for new programs, which we can only spend on new programs. However, if we can’t maintain the current service level of the great higher ed machine that would make those new programs possible, they won’t succeed and you will have wasted millions.
That’s why we think you made a typo.
Today, students, faculty and staff from around the state as well as legislators who believe in higher education will show up on your doorstep to tell you that students are tired of being shit on.
You continually try to kick us off the Oregon Health Plan. You blatantly put higher ed on the bottom of your to-do list. You propose to turn Oregon into the least affordable state in the nation to attend college. And you want our universities to be national leaders in engineering?
Please, tell us it was a typo so we can wish you well when you leave office. You seem like a nice person, friendly to animals and students in the K-12 program.
We voted. We did what you asked. We are now a solid portion of your constituents. Don’t you think it’s time to treat us that way?