The Office of the President: University of Oregon

Reimagining Higher Education

Historic session passes critical higher education reforms

When House and Senate leaders ended the 2011 Oregon Legislature, they closed the books on a legislative session that made history. For the first time since the Great Depression, the Oregon legislature passed historic higher education reform legislation – SB 909 and SB 242.

“Our state’s lawmakers took bold steps in the drive to transform and strengthen higher education in Oregon,” said Norm Brown, University of Oregon Foundation Board Chair. “Support of those measures from UO advocates and higher education backers helped ensure their passage. If there is one message I would send right now, it’s ‘thank you.’”

“The Legislature redefined the relationship between the entire Oregon University System and the state this session, through their passage of SB 242 and SB 909,” said UO President Richard Lariviere.

SB 242 removes the Oregon University System from state agency status and allows greater flexibility in policy and budgetary decision-making. SB 909, a top education priority of Gov. John Kitzhaber, and the UO, creates a new unified board to set policy and make funding decisions for education at all levels, from pre-school through college.

“These measures provide greater autonomy and responsibility to the university system and individual institutions. These measures will help us provide the highest quality education possible in an environment where the state is unable to sustain its investment in the university, ” said Lariviere.

UO Alumni Association Board President Julia Mee said she appreciated the work that went into making the ideas of education reform a reality.

“UO advocates met with legislators, filled hearing rooms, provided testimony, and sent thousands of emails to lawmakers this session. The Alumni Association was proud to support these measures, and we’re all grateful for the leadership of Gov. Kitzhaber and the legislature in taking these critical first steps toward improving higher education,” said Mee.

Taken together, these reforms represent just the beginning of higher education reform in Oregon. Starting immediately, the Governor and education leaders across the state will go to work using these new tools to develop and implement a common vision for education in Oregon. Whether it’s offering ideas to improve university governance, providing suggestions to strengthen student access and hold down rising tuition, proposals for enhanced accountability, there will be a variety of ways for UO advocates to plug into the process going forward.

In May 2010, the university introduced the New Partnership initiative, which would establish a local governing board for the UO and create a public endowment to stabilize rising raising tuition costs for Oregonians. In April, 2011, President Lariviere agreed to set aside advocacy for the New Partnership in order to redeploy UO advocacy energies to SB 242 and SB 909.

“From the beginning, the UO Foundation and Alumni Association have been adamant that the UO preserve its public mission and keep college affordable to Oregon students. I’m confident that the New Partnership proposal helped move this conversation forward,” said Norm Brown. “It brought bold new ideas to the discussion, and engaged a wide array of advocates from across the nation.”

“Support from UO alumni throughout this conversation has been critical,” said President Lariviere. “In the coming weeks and months, there will be many opportunities to be involved in implementing the Governor’s vision for higher education. Please continue to stand with the UO and make your voice heard for Oregon students.”