The 79th Oregon Legislative Assembly has adjourned. By many measures, this was a difficult session for lawmakers, who were faced with a more than $1 billion budget shortfall and major packages of policy to negotiate, including a multi-billion dollar transportation package and a Medicaid package to ensure thousands of Oregonians are able to stay on the Oregon Health Plan.
Despite challenging circumstances, the University of Oregon came away with significantly more in state operating dollars that will lower UO’s tuition increase next year by four percent; $50 million in capital construction investment to help construct the new Phil and Penny Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact; and several key policy bills that will help us operate more nimbly in the future. A summary of key bills and budgets is below.
Operating Funds (SB 5524): The seven universities’ received $70 million its request for an additional $100 million, bringing the total in the Public University Support Fund to $737 million. This represents a 10.4% increase over the previous biennium, and will allow UO’s undergraduate resident tuition for the next academic year to drop to 6.56% from 10.6%.
The Oregon Opportunity Grant program was maintained at the same level of funding as last biennium, the Oregon Promise program was funded at nearly $40 million, an increase of $20 million over last biennium. The Higher Education Coordinating Commission was given broad authority to alter eligibility requirements and distribution models for Oregon Promise that will likely move the program from a “first-come, first served” model to a means-tested program.
The 13 State Programs budget was increased by $194,096, bringing total funding to $39.7 million. UO participates in five of the 13 programs, including the Dispute Resolution Center, the Labor Education Research Center, the TallWood Design Center, Clinical Legal Education, and Signature Research Centers.
Capital Construction Funding (SB 5505): $264 million of general obligation bonds were authorized to finance 14 university projects. UO received the largest investment for a single project, with $50 million for the Phil and Penny Knight Campus for Accelerating Scientific Impact. $50 million was also allocated for deferred maintenance projects across all campuses.
Alternative Benefits for Postdoctoral Scholars (SB 214) Postdoctoral scholar positions are important waypoints in careers, as well as critical to the research capacity of a university. SB 214 will make it easier for UO to recruit postdocs and bring in more federal funding by establishing an alternative retirement benefit for postdocs hired on or after 1/1/2018. Under the bill, postdocs will automatically be enrolled in an Optional Retirement Plan (ORP) that will allow them to contribute up to four percent of salary to the plan and require a match by UO. This plan is more cost-effective for universities, allows for immediate vesting for postdocs, and will make Oregon more competitive for grants.
Expands Veteran Priority Registration and Services (HB 2565): Modifies priority enrollment system at UO to offer course registration to continuing and new veteran students prior to others within the same credit-year classification.
Textbook Affordability/Open Educational Resources (HB 2729): Increases the number of open educational resources, such as freely accessibly textbooks and videos, and makes them transferable between institutions so students spend less on books and take on less debt.
Grant Program for Veteran Services on College Campuses (SB 143): Sets up a competitive statewide grant program to establish campus veteran resource centers and coordinators, or expand and enhance existing centers and coordinators, on campuses of community colleges and public universities. The grant program, within the Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs, is initially funded with $1,100,000.
Increases Protections for Student Athletes from Predatory Athlete Agents (SB 5): Requires additional disclosures from athlete-agents, including contact information, financial records, and past student athlete involvement. Allows reciprocal athlete-agent registration and renewal between states, and enhances athletic director notification requirements.
Designation for Museum of Natural & Cultural History (HB 2399): Establishes Condon Collection at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History (MNCH) as official repository for paleontological material. Prohibits interference with existing collections in the possession of any post-secondary institution of education in Oregon.
Student Loan Debt Education and Reporting (SB 253): Requires universities to provide the following information to students annually in any form: Estimate of total amount of federal education loans student has received to date; total cumulative amount of tuition and fees student has paid to date; estimate of total potential payoff amount including principal and interest estimate of amount, including interest, of potential monthly payment; percentage of borrowing limit student has reached to date; and statement that information provided does not include private loans or credit card debt.
Credit Transfer (HB 2998): Requires the establishment of unified statewide transfer agreements between public universities and community colleges. Agreements must include various metrics, including ensuring that transfer students are able to obtain a degree with similar number of academic credits as required for students who begin post-secondary education at public university, minimization of debt, increasing rate at which transfer students receive a degree while maintaining standards of academic rigor at all institutions. Requires first transfer agreement by December 1, 2018.
Health Insurance Coverage for Students during Campus Disease Outbreaks (HB 3276): Requires insurers to cover vaccinations (even if out-of-network) when deemed necessary to prevent the spread of disease; requires insurers to cover or reimburse for vaccinations in urgent health situations; and creates a workgroup to make recommendations to improve student healthcare coverage.
Cultural Competency Standards (HB 2864): Directs public universities to establish process for recommendation and oversight of cultural competency standards for employees, and requires implementation by December 31, 2019.
Student Mental Health Support (SB 231): Establishes Task Force on Student Mental Health Support to investigate the impact of mental health issues and substance abuse disorders on college education, recruitment, retention and completion.
Protecting Students Who Are Survivors of Sexual Assault (HB 2972): Prohibits universities from imposing or threatening discipline or sanction for purpose of influencing student-victim's decision to participate in investigation of sexual assault, violence or stalking.