Measure 86: An investment for the future

The issue of funding higher education is on the forefront of most university students’ minds. Initiatives such as Pay It Forward and The Oregon Opportunity Initiative serve as beacons of hope for future generations.

The Oregon Opportunity Initiative will create a constitutionally protected fund that will help improve funding for higher education and vocational training here in the state of Oregon.

Oregon currently ranks 47th in state assistance to education, so such legislation will be long overdue.

The idea of making education more affordable and accessible is laudable, but a lot of plans don’t put forward a realistic and economically sound plan. Measure 86, in conjuncture with the Pay It Forward initiative, will hopefully change that.

The Oregon Opportunity Initiative would work with a long-standing program which borrows money for certain public purposes and then proceeds to repay the money from a general fund. This fund helps pay for the construction of school buildings and prisons, seismic upgrades and transportation. This measure would make the Oregon Opportunity Initiative an additional purpose for this borrowing authority.

The measure would ultimately give the decision regarding how financial aid would be distributed to future legislators and would also allow the state government to incur debt in order to provide money to education by selling bonds.

The secretary of the treasury has asked for an initial $100 million commitment, backed by bonds and deposits over time, to support this measure. Bonds used to pay for the fund­­ would ultimately be paid back from the general fund—the same as all debt is repaid. Adjustments can be made due to market fluctuation in a similar manner to the Common School Fund.

While some may feel a bit hesitant to grant legislators such control and worry about incurring more “unnecessary” debt, I would argue that this is a necessary step in attempting to craft a system that is fair and accessible to all students, regardless of economic impediments.

No one likes a state that is in more debt than it needs to be, however the rhetoric geared toward postponing progress because of any potential risk is ridiculous.

Every public resource project has its potential negative aspects and may not be successful right off the bat. However, if this was anything but access to higher education, people wouldn’t consider sitting around twiddling their thumbs hoping for something better to come along.
An article by The Oregonian Editorial Board puts forth an alternative: Colleges themselves should be the ones who bear the burden of raising money for the endowment’s initial stake.

In an ideal world, it would be wonderful if universities and colleges took the initiative to help fund higher education. But any university student can tell you that such a concept is equally as laughable as the idea that magical loan fairies will make all your debt disappear if you just believe hard enough.

This particular article scoffs at the notion of the state borrowing money rather than the student. This is characteristic of a single minded way of thinking which assumes that all one has to do in order to earn a degree is be smart, do well and bear the burden of your education.

I think the only thing more problematic than a state incurring more debt is to have an entire generation of Oregonians who have to delay entering the working world, moving out, buying houses, having kids, getting married and becoming contributing members of society all because of crippling student loan debt.

Access to higher education will ultimately create a professional working class that will be invaluable to the state of Oregon in the long run.
After 30 straight years of declining funding, it is time that the Oregon voters send a message that higher education is important and an investment for the future that they are willing to make.