SALEM, Ore. -Yesterday the Senate Committee on Education and Workforce discussed several bills that directly affect the student population at PSU. While none of the bills were passed today, most were moved to either the Ways and Means Committee or to the Senate floor.
The bills pertaining to education dealt with tuition plateaus, education incentives for first generation students of color, and undocumented student tuition rates.
Senate Bill 747 was originally an attempt to reinstate tuition plateaus, but was victim to a “gut and stuff” which changed the bill into a study of the viability of all Oregon universities.
Because of a lack of political support in the Senate, the amendment passed in yesterday’s committee replaced almost the entirety of the bill, leaving only vestiges of its original intent.
Committee Chair Vicki Walker acknowledged that the original form of this bill would go no further, but stated that students would still testify on the original form because she wanted the students “to have their day in the Senate.”
Kevin Grant, state affairs director for Oregon State University and board member of Oregon Student Association, testified about the importance of reinstating the tuition plateaus that were removed last fall. Grant asserted that this move has not only caused further financial strain on students but created a drop in credit hour enrollment. He further noted that this means it is taking longer for students to finish their degrees and goes against the stated goals of the Oregon University System.
After Grant’s testimony, Walker acknowledged the validity of his points and stated, “I commit to you that I will bring this bill back in 2007.” She acknowledged that this commitment was predicated on her reelection.
Both committee member Sen. Ryan Deckert and Oregon University System Chancellor George Pernsteiner testified for the need of a comprehensive study on the university system. The amendment was passed and the bill was sent to the Senate floor.
Senate Bill 769, a controversial bill that would allow undocumented students who have attended three years in the Oregon school system to receive in-state tuition, was also moved yesterday, but to the Ways and Means Committee with a recommendation that the committee pass the bill.
Testifying on behalf of the bill was Steve Bender of the Legislative Fiscal Office.
Senate Bill 637, on a related issue, was also moved to the Ways and Means Committee. The bill proposes to create a multi-ethnic student loan program in order to “entice a more multi-ethnic teaching core” to Oregon schools, as Senator Deckert stated in his testimony for the bill.
The bill would make loans of up to $7,500 available to ethnic minorities who fulfill stated requirements, some of which include a promise to enroll in approved teacher-education programs and to teach in the Oregon school system for a certain amount of time.
In Oregon, 5 to 5.5 percent of the education workforce is ethnic minorities, while the student population is 23 percent and growing. In his testimony, Patrick Burk, Chief
Policy Officer for the Department of Education, noted, “We know that students do well in an environment where they see themselves reflected.”