Oregon Student Association discusses OUS restructuring

To discuss the student stance on the potential restructuring of the Oregon University System, the Oregon Student Association met on Sept. 24 at Mount Hood Community College to voice its concerns.

To discuss the student stance on the potential restructuring of the Oregon University System, the Oregon Student Association met on Sept. 24 at Mount Hood Community College to voice its concerns.

According to a draft released last year by the Office of the President of Portland State, state funding for higher education has been steadily decreasing for 20 years. During this time, OUS institutions have lost 40 percent of their funding.

For PSU, this means that only 16 percent of its annual operating budget is covered by state funds.

 “Restructuring is necessary,” said ASPSU President Katie Markey. “The state of Oregon has for the past 20 years continually allocated less and less money to higher education, which in turn means substantial tuition increases.”

Markey attended the OSA meeting and was able to provide insight as to what went on there.

OSA, a statewide non-profit concerned with advocacy, is led by students from around the state. The current member campuses are Eastern Oregon University, Lane Community College, Mount Hood Community College, Oregon Health & Science University, Oregon State University, PSU, Southern Oregon University, University of Oregon and Western Oregon University.

Since 1975, the OSA has aimed to “represent, serve and protect the collective interests of students” in higher education in Oregon,” according to its website.

“OSA’s mission is to advocate for and represent the needs of the students in Oregon,” Markey said. “In the case of restructuring, we are working on making sure that student voices and interests are not only heard, but protected as well.”

According to Markey, 50 to 60 students showed up for the meeting, and the goal was to let as many students speak as possible.

“PSU students have been leading the discussion for the most part,” she said. “However, the goal was to allow all students to voice their concerns, as we all come from different campuses. We designed the work session to allow for every student in attendance to have their say.”

Rather than having main speakers, attendees gathered in small groups to discuss the issues concerning students before reconvening to deliberate as a whole.

There were presentations on different proposals, an update on the progress of the Interim Committee on Higher Education and discussion about what has been done by students so far.

“We then proceeded to break down the OUS proposal into pieces so we could more easily discuss them, such as the idea of local boards and the tuition setting process,” Markey said.

Restructuring means changing the legal status of the Oregon University System so it will no longer be a state agency, according to Markey.

“[This will] allow for the universities to have more control,” she said.

Though what the actual restructuring of OUS will look like is unknown, Markey is fairly certain that tuition will be handled differently.

“It could mean differential tuition, funding from the state based on number of degrees given rather than number of students enrolled,” she said. “It could mean of lot of things, these are just some potentials.”

In the end, the OSA meeting was merely to discuss the student stance on the restructuring issue.

“Because of the complexity of the issue and the desire to reach as many students as possible, only a list of concerns was drafted,” Markey said.

However, a formal stance will be determined at the OSA’s next board meeting on Oct. 22.

There are currently three restructuring proposals and two drafted pieces of legislation.

She said that more information would be available on the ASPSU website in a couple of weeks.

For those that wish to become involved in the restructuring discussion, Markey said students can come by the ASPSU office in 117 Smith Memorial Student Union. There is always need for help in collecting student testimonies, attending lobby visits or helping educate fellow students of the problems.