Treasurer’s announcement and our New Partnership

September 27th, 2010

Last week Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler announced that it is likely that the state’s general fund debt capacity will be reduced because of the recession. I am grateful that the Treasurer’s office took the time to notify me personally about this news.

We know that the announcement has implications for the university’s proposal to create a university endowment. Our efforts are affirmed, not set back, by this announcement. The University of Oregon is adamant that our state’s future depends upon Oregon’s students earning college degrees. In doing so, those students and our research universities create the high value, high wage economy that will renew our state.

We do not believe that the treasurer’s announcement affects the feasibility of the proposed public endowment. The constitutional amendment we suggest enables bonds to be sold, but does not result in an immediate bond issuance. Through negotiation with policy makers and with sensitivity to timing issues like debt capacity and our ability to raise the match, we have understood all along that the UO public university endowment proposal may be phased in. Some time would pass before the constitutional amendment would be adopted by the voters and no new debt would be incurred until after the vote. While the Treasurer’s announcement is worrisome for our state, review of the university’s public endowment proposal and the timing for implementation will continue.

I am resolved that that the University of Oregon should engage in – even lead – the vigorous discussion that policymakers are now having about how to make sure Oregonians earn the college degrees that they, our state, and the economy require. We are bold enough to reimagine how public support should be organized to meet the university’s mission. We are optimistic enough to dream of a public endowment matched with private philanthropy. And, we are wise enough to know that these issues are complex, requiring serious discussion and real thought.

The University of Oregon has put forward the New Partnership proposal as a new idea. As we embark on a new school year and the second year of my presidency, I am astonished, humbled and grateful for the serious consideration that the New Partnership initiative has received. I look forward to continued engagement and to the kind of rigorous examination that will make it worthy of our state’s adoption.

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