Legislature acts on student aid, tuition, and student life measures

The Legislature adjourned Sine Die on July 8. Other articles in this UO Public and Government Affairs Update detail the Legislature’s action on higher education governance, the Oregon University System budget and capital construction projects, research, and other UO priorities. This article details bills that relate to student aid, tuition and student life measure that the legislature worked on this session. 

Oregon Student Access Commission (OSAC): OSAC (HB 5032) will receive $138,460,506 for the 2013-15 biennium, $8.5 million above current service levels.  As part of the OSAC budget, the Oregon Opportunity Grant is funded at $113.7 million, an increase of $8.3 million over current service levels.  This is anticipated to fund approximately 63,000 awards at an average amount of $1,800.

Oregon Student Opportunity Fund: Both chambers of the Legislature have passed SJR 1, which proposes an amendment to the Oregon Constitution to allow debt financing of a fund dedicated to student aid. As a constitutional amendment, the proposal will go to voters in the fall of 2014. The Legislature did not approve an accompanying bill SB 11, which would have provided XI-R bond funding to a new Oregon Opportunity Fund.

Tuition Equity: The Legislature passed HB 2787, which grants in-state tuition to undocumented students who have lived in the U.S. for five years, graduated from an Oregon high school after studying there for at least three years, been accepted to an Oregon public university, and shown an intention to become a U.S. citizen or lawful permanent resident. President Gottfredson offered testimony in support of the bill.

Veterans: The Legislature passed and the Governor signed HB 2158, which requires that public universities and community colleges offer in-state tuition to undergraduate veterans with either an honorable discharge or a general discharge under honorable conditions if they can show physical presence in Oregon within 12 months of enrollment.

Foster Children: The Legislature passed and Governor signed HB 2095 to align the definition of “former foster child” with the federal standard for the purposes of higher education grants, tuition waivers and scholarships. This bill increases the number of students eligible for the Foster Youth Tuition Remission program.

Social Media Access: The Legislature passed and Governor signed SB 344, which prohibits institutions of higher education from requiring disclosure of passwords to students’ or potential students’ personal social media accounts. The bill does not affect the ability of institutions of higher education to access such information as part of investigations, and allows students to voluntarily grant institutions access.

Sexual orientation disclosure: The Oregon House considered HB 2995, which would have required each public university, community college or other institution of higher education to allow students, faculty and staff to identify sexual orientation on forms used to collect demographic data. In lieu of Legislative action, the OUS presidents agreed to study the issue and report to the Legislature in 2014 on OUS’s progress with developing plans for LGBT data collection.

Athlete Agent: The Legislature passed and Governor signed into law HB 3296, which improves laws around athlete agents. First, it makes Oregon statute consistent with the NCAA definition so that anyone attempting to make a profit from a student-athlete must register with the institution. Second, it provides clear direction about the person an athlete agent is required to contact at an educational institution, creating needed transparency. Third, it creates meaningful enforcement of the law by putting it under the Unfair Trade Practices Act (UTPA). Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem), Representative Phil Barnhart (D-Eugene), and Representative Gene Whisnant (R-Sunriver) led the effort to secure passage of the bill. UO Senior Associate Athletic Director Jeff Hawkins gave supportive testimony on this bill before both the House Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development and the Senate Education and Workforce Development Committee.