All 7 public universities raising tuition in Oregon

People gather before the start of the OSU-Cascades opening ceremonies at its Bend campus in September 2016. 

To make up for an anticipated income loss of $2 million, Oregon State University-Cascades will enact cost-saving measures starting July 1 — including reducing staff salaries and cutting work hours.

Because 80% of OSU-Cascades’ budget is made up of personnel costs, trimming salaries and work hours was inevitable, said Becky Johnson, the university’s vice president.

“It’s really hard to meet that $2 million gap without impacting the workforce,” she said Friday. “In fact, it’s impossible.”

OSU-Cascades leadership is expecting a 17.5% drop in state funding for the 2020-21 school year and an enrollment drop of 4% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Johnson said. Since it became a four-year university in 2016, OSU-Cascades’ enrollment has steadily climbed each year.

From July through mid-September, all classified staff — which includes most university workers who aren’t instructors, professors or administrators — will be required to take one unpaid day off each week, Johnson said. Then, from September through June 2021, the salaries of the rest of the staff will be reduced, she said.

The university will decide how much these salaries will shrink after Aug. 1, when Oregon State University’s budget — which will include the university’s main campus in Corvallis — is released, Johnson said.

“It depends on how much in the hole they are in,” she said.

Tenured and nontenured academic faculty will also be expected to teach an additional class next year. This doesn’t mean working more hours, but rather reducing time spent on other job requirements, such as publishing research or studying journals, Johnson said.

OSU-Cascades will also implement what Johnson calls a “strategic hiring freeze.” That means the university will keep a majority of vacant positions open, but there will be a few exceptions. For example, the university will still hire faculty for its new doctorate of physical therapy program, expected to open in the fall of 2021, she said.

“We know the (physical therapy) program is in high demand … and could help us turn things around after the COVID situation,” Johnson said.

However, student workers at OSU-Cascades won’t see their salaries or work hours shrink this school year.

“We know a lot of times that job the student worker has is the only thing keeping them in school,” Johnson said.

There will also be a few more cost-saving actions at OSU-Cascades, starting in July, that aren’t related to salary or work hours.

Staff will have very little professional development or travel opportunities, Johnson said. And the university buildings will reduce heating and air conditioning to save energy costs.

“We will ask people to be a little warmer in the summer, a little (colder) in the winter,” she said.

OSU-Cascades’ expansion project, which involves filling in a 100-feet-deep pumice mine, will not be impacted by budget cuts, Johnson said. Capital projects draw from a different budget, and money can’t be taken from it to pay for staff salaries, she said.

State funding cuts may change based on what the Legislature decides in a special session later this summer, Johnson said.

Gov. Kate Brown is allowed to slash funding for all state-funded agencies — including higher education — at the same amount. But the Legislature could decide to restore some of that lost funding to higher education, or deepen the hole by prioritizing other agencies, Johnson said.

“Maybe they’ll say higher education is important, and they’ll make that cut less,” she said. “But until we know, that’s what we have to plan for.”

Despite these salary cuts and other cost-saving measures, Johnson said no academic programs would be eliminated at OSU-Cascades this year, including the brand-new outdoor products and engineering science degree programs.

“We’re doing what we can to still expand our offerings for students, and make sure all the students can graduate in a timely manner,” Johnson said.

Erika McCalpine, an instructor and leader of OSU-Cascades’ business program, said she and other faculty knew to expect salary reductions, because the university had been transparent about its financial struggles with COVID-19.

She called the faculty salary reductions a “temporary sacrifice,” and said she was OK with them if it meant avoiding layoffs or impacts to students’ education.

“If that means I can give up a little to support students, and keep my job, and make sure my colleagues keep their job, then I’m happy to do that,” McCalpine said.

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