Kulongoski dismisses Higher Ed Board

Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski announced yesterday that he has dismissed four members of the State Higher Education Board.

This announcement came in conjunction with Kulongoski’s decision to appoint former Oregon governor Neil Goldschmidt to one of the now-vacant seats on the board. The reconfiguration comes after a series of tuition hikes over the past several years have raised the overall price of education in Oregon, and shifted the fiscal responsibility from the state to students.

These decisions are part of the governor’s postsecondary education initiative, through which he hopes to return focus to access and address monetary issues. “A viable and healthy postsecondary education system is critical to grow the economy, create jobs and allow Oregon to become a competitive player in the global marketplace,” Kulongoski said.

The four board members – Jim Lussier, Leslie Lehmann, Kerry Barnett and Phyllis Wustenberg – turned in their resignations “in order to allow the Governor to reconstitute the Board with new members focused on delivering the Governor’s postsecondary education initiative,” according to a press release from Kulongoski’s office. The press release explained goals of the initiate and summarized, “We must spend state dollars effectively by targeting investment programs that drive economic growth and that give us a return on our investment that aligns with our goals of access and excellence.”

John Wykoff, director of the Oregon Student Association, said that so far OSA views changes to the Higher Ed Board as a good thing. He said OSA’s goal has always been access, something he feels the previous board lost sight of. Wykoff added that, in light of Kulongoski’s announcement yesterday, the Governor feels the same way.

“He’s thrown down the gauntlet,” Wykoff said. “We view that positively.”