PSU finances: past, present and future

On Wednesday, Portland State students were invited to attend a financial forum entitled “PSU’s Financial Futures Framework.”

On Wednesday, Portland State students were invited to attend a financial forum entitled “PSU’s Financial Futures Framework.”

The presentation, led by Vice President of Finance and Administration Lindsay Desrochers, provided the financial history of PSU, as well as its future trajectory in regards to state funding and financial aid. This was only the first talk in what administrators hope will be a series of informational sessions.

“The goal here is to have you walk out of this room feeling like you really understand better what the overall [financial] picture is for [PSU], and how we got to where we are today, and how it affects you as students,” Desrochers said to the audience of about 30.

Desrochers began the presentation with an analysis of PSU’s past and current financial standing. According to Desrochers, PSU had around 15,000 students in 1989–90, but has now grown to 28,000 students.

“From 1989–90 to 2010, [PSU] has grown, and our dollars have grown. The issue is that our dollars haven’t grown fast enough to keep up with the growth,” she said.

Desrochers said that state funding has not been increased to match PSU’s student body growth.

“[Tuition and fees] have had to take up the slack because the state, frankly, has not done its duty to this public institution,” Desrochers said.

She said that resident PSU students are paying $6,300 per year this year. In 1989, resident students were paying only $2,600 per term.

Desrochers explained that the Resource Allocation Model, adopted in 1999 by the Oregon University System, is used to appropriate state funds to different campuses within the system. While the state funded about 90 percent of the RAM in 1999, today the state is funding the model at 50 percent.

In addition, Desrochers said PSU receives too little financial aid. Currently, the university’s total grant aid is $54 million, most of which comes from federal support. According to Desrochers, the Oregon’s state grant program is in jeopardy.

“We have far too little financial aid available to our students, I don’t think I’ll get much disagreement about that,” Desrochers said. “We have grown financial aid, but not to the level that we need to grow to match the growth and tuition and the fees that are now upon [PSU students].”
Aside from the rising cost of tuition, decreasing state funding and insufficient financial aid, Desrochers also pointed out the below-average salary for faculty, as well as the declining percentage of tenured and tenure-track professors.

“The trajectory beyond [the current] international financial crisis is that, very shortly, maybe 10 percent of our support will come from the state in the next 10 years,” she said.

The presentation was followed by a Q-and-A session. Students addressed several issues regarding PSU’s current financial situation, including concerns about the university’s white paper and its possibility of financial restructure into a public corporation model.

“70 percent of [PSU’s] support is coming from student tuition and it will creep up some more the next year,” Desrochers said. “The question is, how do we zero in on this question about financial aid, how do we assist students who we don’t want to lose to this system.”

Desrochers said that PSU needs to reevaluate its relationship to the state and consider if it makes sense for the university to remain a state agency, given the costs associated with it.

“The fact is the university can’t sit here and just keep hoping that the state is going to allocate money that it doesn’t have or the room to be able to allocate it,” she said.