“Public corporation” is not the right term

University students in England have made it clear what they don’t want— an increased cap on education fees, a heavy burden of debt and high class exclusivity in higher education.

University students in England have made it clear what they don’t want— an increased cap on education fees, a heavy burden of debt and high class exclusivity in higher education. They’ve taken to the streets, making public bonfires and protest signs. As our English-speaking brothers and sisters fight their fight across the pond, it becomes important for us to address our own education problems, as state contribution and private giving decreases.

Contributions such as the $1.85 million TIRO grant help out high-need students, and the recent establishment of University Advancement can hopefully make up for the expected-to-dwindle 15 percent that the State of Oregon covers for PSU’s operational costs. The rest is up to financial aid and tuition fees.

Education is for the good of the public. In the long term, it produces more revenues from taxes from the higher paying jobs it can produce, but our generation is facing the short end of the stick, as older generations, who enjoyed cheaper educational opportunities, refuse to give back to the system through taxes and personal giving.

It has become apparent that there are structural problems in Oregon’s public universities, which produce more than just financial troubles.

The Oregonian’s editorial board recently called to “free the seven public universities from the state-agency status” and that “giving the universities flexibility and control over tuition, personnel, health benefits and purchasing could save millions every year.”

Oregon University System’s current structure was outlined in 1929, prior to the stock market crash, and according the proposal, Governance Proposal and Considerations for Change (July 9, 2010) its stipulations are now ill-advised in the modern world. Schools in the OUS would achieve the same legal status as community colleges—a status that was established in the ‘70s in recognition of more contemporary financial needs.

One purpose of this proposition is to assure that money paid to the institution will remain within its control. At this point, it is an accepted yet morally bankrupt practice to sweep tuition-based revenues to fund other state functions, things that taxes, not student tuition, should cover.

This alternative to the current system still allows the increasingly meager state funding to flow into the OUS, while assuring the students that they get what they pay for.

By allowing Portland State to take control of its own reigns, we will find our institution to be much more efficient, local and less burdened by money laundering and bureaucracy.

Without a doubt, we will face tuition hikes in the future, but with this model we can maintain it. Many other states have loosened their legislature’s grip on university systems across the country, and now is the time for Oregon to do the same if we want to remain competitive and well educated.

Although this proposal is based on last year’s call to make the top three Oregon universities “public corporations,” it would be much better to call them “semi-autonomous organizations,” but that doesn’t roll off the tongue as easily. They would be partially funded by the state, yet granted the freedoms to run themselves.

Based on what the proposal says, it’s not nearly as bad as it sounds once you disassociate the word “corporation.” So don’t freak out—it is unlikely that PSU will start selling stock, paying CEO’s or crushing labor unions. On the other hand, we should look foreword to the potential of our tuition avoiding state coffers and going to where it should. ?