Next chapter in New Partnership

August 24th, 2010

We are on the threshold of an important and exciting conversation about the future of higher education in Oregon. Many of you have already been engaged in discussions about the New Partnership proposal introduced in May by the University of Oregon. The dialog, conducted on the New Partnership website ( and through meetings and discussions throughout Oregon, has helped us refine our recommendations and highlight the plan's most important objective -increasing educational opportunity in a resource-challenged environment. The resulting revision of our white paper, "Preserving Our Public Mission through a New Partnership with the State," can now be viewed in its entirety at the New Partnership website.

We have enjoyed considerable support as Oregonians have reflected on the current state of their higher education system and the remedies being proposed in the white paper. Editorial boards (  at the state's major newspapers have urged state decision makers to seriously consider the UO recommendations. The Oregon University System (OUS) has adopted aspects of our proposal, including a plan to seek legislative authority for the creation of campus-level governing boards that would guide individual universities’ operations.

Now comes a critical next phase in the discussion: introducing the proposal to Oregon's lawmakers and continuing to work with the Oregon University System. I will be making a presentation in September to the Oregon Legislature's Higher Education Workgroup, and a major focus throughout the fall will be to expand the discussion and build support heading into the 2011 legislative session.

Acceptance of the New Partnership would mark a critical turn for the UO and fundamentally transform the institution and our state. A generation ago, the university received more than double the amount in state funding per student that it received in tuition, but student costs must now cover three times the amount contributed by the state. That trend must be stopped. The New Partnership proposal will accomplish this most important task by seeking a pledge from the state to freeze its financial commitment to the UO at today's low-water mark - which, in its current form, covers less than 9 percent of the university's budget. Under the New Partnership proposal, that state money will be used to service the debt on $800 million in general obligation bonds. The UO will raise a matching amount through private gifts, and the combined $1.6 billion will become an endowment that ensures a perpetual funding stream for the university's students and the faculty and staff that are here to support them.

As a graph in the revised white paper shows, if our proposed endowment had been created in 1991 with the amount of funding the UO received at that time ($63.3 million), it would have paid a distribution of $62.8 million in its first year and that annual payout would have grown to $154.7 million by 2010. (In contrast, the state appropriation to UO for 2010 is projected to be about $60 million.) The endowment balance - what I see as our seed corn - would now be worth about $4 billion. These figures come from a simulation of actual endowment performance from the UO Foundation in real economic conditions over the past 20 years.

I encourage all Oregonians to remain engaged in this important discussion about the UO, the future of higher education in Oregon and our state's ability to remain competitive in the world's knowledge-based marketplace. We have proposed one alternative that will preserve the public mission of this fine institution. Now we embark on an effort to see if the state can join the partnership. Our state will suffer if we fail to adopt an agenda that increases educational attainment in the knowledge economy. Our state and our students can't afford for the next 20 years in public higher education to look like the last. The time to act is now.

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