State Relations update: Governor offers capital construction recommendations; Gottfredson supports tuition equity; Committees hear testimony on Oregon Opportunity Initiative

Governor recommends funding for UO projects

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber has announced his recommendations for $242 million in state-repaid bonds for the Oregon University System and Community College capital projects on February 5. Instead of releasing both his recommended capital and operating budgets in late November as has been customary, the Governor asked Oregon’s public universities and community colleges to reprioritize state repaid capital construction projects based on 40-40-20 criteria. The governor’s updated list reflects the reprioritization suggested to him by the Oregon University System and community colleges.

The updated list includes $11 million in general obligation bond funding for the renovation and expansion of Straub and Earl halls and adds revenue bond funding for the expansion and renovation of the Erb Memorial Union to previously included allocations for student housing and the student recreation center. The Governor’s press release on funding identified the expansion of the University of Oregon’s research library as a further priority should the Legislature choose to allocate additional debt capacity. It does not include a recommendation for funding for Chapman Hall, which was at one time ranked third on the OUS list of priorities.

Gottfredson supports tuition equity

On February 13, the House Committee on Higher Education and Workforce Development held a hearing on a tuition equity bill (HB 2787) that would grant in-state tuition rates for undocumented students who have attended school in the country for at least five years; studied at an Oregon high school for at least three years; have graduated; and have filed an affidavit with an Oregon university stating that the student has applied for citizenship or will apply as soon as the student is eligible. UO President Michael Gottfredson joined Portland State University President Wim Weiwel and State Board of Higher Education member Jim Franscesconi on a panel to testify in favor of the proposal. More than 300 supporters and opponents flooded into two hearing rooms and the capitol galleria to attend the hearing.

The bill passed out of the House Higher Education and Workforce Development Committee on February18 and is expected to pass the full House on February 19.

Wheeler presents proposal to lawmakers

Both the House and Senate have held hearings on State Treasurer Ted Wheeler’s proposal to help stabilize funding for the Oregon Opportunity Grant. Wheeler’s Oregon Opportunity Initiative would leverage $500 million in general fund-backed bonds to create a fund for opportunity grants. The fund would be invested to generate returns and increase the size of the fund.

Wheeler visited campus on January 29 to discuss the plan with students, UO President Michael Gottfredson, and UO Financial Aid Director Jim Brooks.