Dreaming of affordability

In an article titled “Dreaming of Affordability” printed in the May6 Vanguard, a typographical error misquoted the benefit granted tostudents awarded collegiate aid money from the state. The quote:”If you are enrolled at PSU you would receive $1,200, at Reed:$42,000,” should have read “…at Reed: $4,200.”

In the 1960’s, students could work 20 hours a week to cover thecost of going to college. Fast-forward to 2004 and students wouldhave to work 50 hours a week in order to afford attending a stateschool, according to Dr. Nancy Goldschmidt, the associate viceprovost of the Oregon Health and Sciences University (OHSU).

“It’s impossible,” Goldschmidt said, “without some form offinancial aid.”

Goldschmidt is working with a ten-person Oregon UniversitySystem (OUS) committee, writing a proposal that would “make surefinances aren’t a barrier for students ready to go to school,” sheexplained. 29,000 applicants who qualified for the OregonOpportunity Grant were not given aid, according to Goldschmidt.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski proposed the creation of an education trustfund, the interest from which would be used as financial aid forstudents. The OUS committee is looking at the structure of theexisting Oregon Opportunity Grant. “When the grant was constructed,public tuition was lower,” Goldschmidt said. “It’s not veryaffordable if the grant only covers eleven percent of tuitioncosts.”

James Sager, the Education and Workforce Policy Adviser for Gov.Kulongoski, said the committee is trying to figure out what thesystem will look like and where the funding sources will come from.”The idea was to create a dedicated fund that the interest wouldprovide full-ride scholarships,” Sager said, “We’re narrowing itdown to smaller amounts based on need, and, to a certain extent, onmerit.”

The OUS committee is “looking at something that is tied totuition, in regards to how much students receive,” Goldschmidtsaid, “If you are enrolled at PSU you would receive $1,200, atReed: $42,000.”

A point of ambiguity is where the funding for the proposed trustfund will originate.

“We don’t know where the funding is going to come from,”Goldschmidt said, “but we’re dreaming about the best student aidpackage for low and medium-income Oregonians.” Both Sager andGoldschmidt commented that if there is a lack of funding, the moneyavailable will only be allotted once priorities for its use areset.

What Goldschmidt does know is the state “isn’t making enoughinvestment in higher education, with the recent disinvestment fromthe legislature.”

The OUS committee plans on having a recommendation for Gov.Kulongoski by June. The Governor will send the proposal through thelegislative process if he likes the proposal, Sager said. If theproposal makes the cut, it will be ready for the January 2005legislative session.

With the lower than average income of Oregonians, as compared toother states, “students will do all types of things to pay forschool or they get discouraged and drop out,” Goldschmidt said,”And Oregon needs people with degrees to compete in a globalmarket.”