Funding uncertainty is nothing new for Oregon State University’s OSU-Cascades campus, and this year is no different. It’s encouraging that Gov. Kate Brown came out Thursday and said there might be an extra $100 million in bonding authority to help.
The Central Oregon legislative delegation needs to step up and ensure it happens.
Bonding authority, which is determined by the state Legislature, needs to be adequate to allow OSU-Cascades to build its Student Success Center in the next couple of years. That building will provide students with easy access to resources such as counseling, tutoring and career information. It’s an important addition to a fast-growing, young campus.
The project got a relatively low ranking from the Higher Education Coordinating Commission, which means it may be less likely to get funded.
The state’s universities have joined forces to try to persuade lawmakers to authorize $285 million in bonding authority for the last half of the 2019-2020 biennium, up from Gov. Kate Brown’s request for $225 million. That’s enough to ensure the Bend campus’s projects are funded.
There’s another funding issue that also deserves mention. The state’s universities are pushing to create a $186 million Public University Support Fund. It would help schools aid financially disadvantaged students in school and keep tuition down. That’s particularly important for the Bend campus, where 43 percent of students qualify for the need-based Pell Grants given by the federal government.
OSU-Cascades would put its share of that money to good use. According to Kelly Sparks, the school’s associate vice president for finance and strategic planning, the school would use the money to help its most financially disadvantaged students in three ways:
Some would ensure that students whose money runs out just shy of graduation get the resources they need to complete their education. Another chunk would go to helping financially stressed students complete their educations within four years. Finally, some would be spent to make certain that those same students graduate with ready-to-go job skills. That would be accomplished with, among other things, internships and employment counseling.
All this depends on the good will of lawmakers and their ability to prioritize state dollars among many good causes.