Richard Jarvis has something important to say to Portland State students: “I think you should take geography.”
The Oregon University System Chancellor since 2002, Jarvis resigned from his position last week, effective June 30. During his time as chancellor, PSU gave him the opportunity to teach some geography classes and Jarvis wants all of his students to know how much he loved working with them.
Jarvis’ resignation comes just a few months after Gov. Ted Kulongoski requested the resignations of most members of the State Board of Higher Education. In January, the new board members – appointed by Kulongoski – took office, with former Gov. Neil Goldschmidt as president.
“They have embarked on a very aggressive agenda,” Jarvis said of the new board, putting strong emphasis on affordability and access, goals also outlined by Kulongoski.
Additionally, the failure of Measure 30 in January has forced higher education to take a cut of $7.5 million. The Board has been working to keep as much of those cuts as possible away from the individual campuses within the Oregon University System (OUS) – starting in the chancellor’s office.
At their April 2 meeting, the Board approved an immediate cut of $1 million from the chancellor’s office, reducing the campus cuts to $6.5 million. (PSU will not be making any cuts this year, having previously planned for the failure of Measure 30.)
Though the cuts in the chancellor’s office will likely begin with the academic affairs division, the board is also planning to restructure the role of chancellor. As a result, a search for Jarvis’ replacement is not underway – that won’t happen until the position has been redefined.
However, the direction of the board was a factor in Jarvis’ resignation.
“It makes sense for the board and it makes sense for me,” he said, concluding it was just “time to move on.”
Additionally, the board currently in place is not the board that hired him. Jarvis won’t jump to criticize the previous board, however, noting with a chuckle, “They have excellent taste in chancellors.”
Jarvis also oozes praise for the current board, pointing out how aggressively they are working to bring more money into the higher ed system – hopefully money that doesn’t come directly from the students’ pockets.
In fact, Goldschmidt and Kulongoski have led the board on “a much stronger political campaign to raise the profile of higher education,” Jarvis said.
Additionally, Jarvis commended the board for their work with the budget. They want to prove “that we can, with a little bit of help, get more students through quicker,” he said. “But we need a little bit of help to do that. Help means money, revenue.”
Kulongoski is still pursuing more financial aide for students, and the board is doing a lot of work with the community colleges, often a more affordable alternative for the first two years of undergraduate work.
Additionally, Jarvis noted, the budget strain in higher ed is not going to get any better until Oregon’s economy gets better.
“The state economy has to grow again,” he said. “That’s the thing that’ll turn us loose again.”
The board is also trying to look at the economic development of this state to determine how more money – new money – can be put into the higher ed system.
“Students are hurting and they shouldn’t be paying more tuition,” Jarvis said. “People are working hard. Staff members have been let go. We’re not overstaffed. We’ve taken all the cuts we can make.”
Meanwhile, in addition to making cuts and changes to the chancellor’s office, the board is considering proposals from the seven universities under its purview – including Portland State – for additional tuition increases for 2004-05. The highest were Southern Oregon University and University of Oregon, both at 12 percent increases from last year. Portland State was the lowest, with no additional increases.
It’s still unclear when the economy – and university budgets – will get better, but Jarvis is confident it will happen sometime.
“The Board,” he added, “is just trying to be really well-prepared for when that comes along.”
Jarvis is currently pursuing another career in higher education (“I’m out in the job market just like all of you!”), and is currently a finalist for the position of university president at San Jose State University in northern California.