On May 2, Portland State President Wim Wiewel held a press conference and Q&A with PSU’s student media to discuss changes happening around the university, as well as some of the more hotly debated issues on campus this academic year.
One of the first topics of discussion was regarding degrees obtained at PSU. Wiewel mentioned that the number of degrees being awarded this year will exceed both last year’s count and that of any other Oregon university.
Wiewel also explained that the Four Year Degree Guarantee—a program starting in fall 2014 where full-time freshmen sign an agreement committing to completing their degree in four years following a course plan—has been widely popular.
“We had people signing up immediately,” Wiewel said.
Wiewel also discussed budget and tuition plans for the next academic year. Last year, the administration announced a budget rebalancing for 2014–15 of $15 million.
“We now have in place that $15 million rebalancing. We know where it’s going to come from,” Wiewel said. “In the end, the cuts that are being imposed on the college side [are] a total of $3 million.”
Furthermore, the university is expecting a revenue increase of 1.5 percent—another $3 million.
“We won’t know whether that materializes until we know the fall enrollment numbers,” Wiewel said. “If that doesn’t happen, there will need to be further cuts.”
A campus town hall budget forum has been scheduled for May 27 from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Additionally, tuition for resident undergraduates for the upcoming fall term will remain the same as this spring term.
“The state board of higher education has always had the right to raise tuition as much as they want, so this five percent cap is actually a new development that puts a greater restraint on the Board of Trustees than there ever was on the State Board of Higher Education,” Wiewel said. “In that sense, already there are greater protections in place than there were before.”
In regards to debated issues with HigherOne fees, Wiewel clarifies the basis of PSU’s contract with them.
“As I understand, our contract with HigherOne actually is very different from what they have with most other universities, and our contract was in fact held up as a model of a good contract,” Wiewel said.
The last significant topic that Wiewel discussed was the Task Force on Campus Safety, which was assembled in April 2013 to examine public safety on campus. The TFCS has developed a number of ideas to increase campus safety, as Wiewel described.
“The Task Force made a number of recommendations about more active use of the escorts, safety escort opportunity,” Wiewel said. “And they also suggested that there might be several alternatives if we wanted to move to having a sworn police force.”
Although Wiewel stated that he is “in no particular hurry on this issue,” he did mention that there will be a bigger discussion on these options sometime in the fall. Wiewel hopes for this discussion to include those in the PSU community.