Students lobby at Capitol for more funding

Around 20 Portland State students boarded a bus to Salem Wednesday to lobby for higher education funding to the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education.

Around 20 Portland State students boarded a bus to Salem Wednesday to lobby for higher education funding to the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Education.

Those PSU students joined forces with over a hundred other Oregon students, faculty and business owners to lobby to the subcommittee on the importance of a fully funded higher education budget.

PSU student body president Courtney Morse spoke of her own difficulties paying for higher education and how they relate to many students in Oregon. Morse said it is her job to bring those stories to the Legislature.

“This is a story you’ll hear a million times over,” Morse said. “We’ve been working really closely with the PSU administration, but our job is to bring the student voice and I think we’ve done that.”

In her three years at PSU, Morse said she has racked up around $30,000 of debt. She said it reached the point where she said she has to realistically decide whether or not she can even go to PSU next year.

Testifiers including deans at Oregon State University, a representative from Intel who hires many higher education graduates and Portland Mayor Tom Potter, spoke to the committee about the many ways higher education can benefit Oregon. Potter addressed Portland State specifically.

“I would like to address the vital role that PSU plays in our community,” Potter said. “Threats to the institution are threats to our city.”

Potter focused much of his speech on the matter of capital construction and deferred maintenance to PSU’s buildings, Lincoln Hall and Science Building 2. Senator Vicki Walker, a member of the committee, visited PSU in February to tour the buildings.

“We’ve all been to Lincoln Hall,” Walker said about seeing the needed repairs to the building firsthand.

The proposed co-chair’s budget of the House Ways and Means committee would invest $300 million less for capital construction projects than Governor Ted Kulongoski’s previously proposed budget. The committee’s proposed budget would invest $60 million total for capital construction, while the repairs on Lincoln Hall and Science Building 2 alone would total $76 million.

The governor’s proposed budget for the Oregon University System (OUS) was cut by $33 million, from $827 to $794.

A student from Southern Oregon University spoke to the committee about the situation SOU has found itself in because of the lack of state support for Oregon’s rural colleges. The governor’s proposed budget allocated $9 million in additional support for rural colleges, but the Ways and Means proposed budget eliminated that extra support.

The student said that ceiling tiles are literally falling on students’ heads in one building at SOU because of lack of maintenance. He said the students took it upon themselves and held a number of bake sales to raise funds for the building.

Oregon State University student body president Michael Olson said he is sick of having to stand up for the Oregon Legislature and their lack of support whenever a student badmouths them.

Olson said a lot of students have given up on having a fully funded university.

“A lot of people are starting to lose faith,” he said.

Morse said the decision before the Legislature in the next few months–before they deliver their final budget–is clear. She said the news that OUS might have to raise tuition by 18 percent in the next two years, because of the proposed Ways and Means budget, shocks the students she speaks to.

This is the last hearing Morse is scheduled to speak at before she leaves office. She said she thinks she got out all she wanted to say.

“I think I was really honest,” Morse said, who has attended 20 hearings this year.

The Portland State Chapter of American Association of University Professors sponsored the lobbying trip and Associated Students of Portland State University (ASPSU) recruited the students who attended.

The president of the Inter-institutional Faculty Senate, Mina Carson, said decreasing state support has taken campuses from “extremely efficient to starvation.” Faculty, she said, are getting paid less and less because the schools cannot afford to pay competitively with other states.

The public hearing was packed so tight that about 100 students watched the proceedings on monitors in the overflow room to support their classmates and friends.

ASPSU has been collecting written testimonies from students at Portland State to present to the committee. Morse said they are halfway through their goal of collecting 1000 written testimonies and signatures on the subject of higher education funding. She brought around 20 in-depth testimonies for the subcommittee to read.

At the end of the meeting Larry Galizio, a state representative from Tigard and chair of the Higher Education subcommittee, thanked all who attended, particularly the students.

“I especially want to thank the students who were so incredibly articulate and compelling,” he said and added, “People in this building are listening.”