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Oregon higher ed leaders see funding, new bills as ‘major step in the right direction’ for colle

Oregon’s public universities and community colleges will receive the full amounts of funding they requested from the state.

The passage of a higher education budget bill as the Oregon Legislature wrapped up its work over the weekend gives the public universities $900 million and the community colleges about $703 million for the upcoming two-year budget period. Those funds will be distributed to the individual institutions by the state’s Higher Education Coordinating Commission.

“As Oregon moves forward out of the pandemic, wildfire devastation and impact on the economy, our 17 community colleges stand ready to support students as they upskill, reskill and achieve their academic goals in pursuit of a rewarding career,” Cam Preus, executive director of the Oregon Community College Association, said in a statement.

Last December, Gov. Kate Brown recommended public universities receive about $836 million, while community colleges were slated to get $641 million — about $60 million less for both sets of institutions than the now-legislatively-approved budget.

Along with meeting the institutions’ full budget requests, Oregon higher education also saw some other advancements this legislative session — including bills focused on the success of underrepresented students.

“The 2021 session was a much needed bright spot for Oregon’s public university students,” said Tom Insko, president of Eastern Oregon University and chair of the Oregon Council of Presidents.

Insko said in a statement that the Legislature not only made investments into university operations and financial aid programs, but also pushed forward policies including “basic needs navigators, streamlined transfer of credits and a task force to look at how best to serve underrepresented students.”

HECC Executive Director Ben Cannon said in a statement that the Legislature also funded projects to update and renovate campus buildings around the state, expanded college access programs and supported the modernization of the technology the state uses to administer financial aid to students.

“We have a long way to go to create a truly equitable and accessible system of education and training after high school, but this session represented a major step in the right direction,” Cannon said.

Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting

Meerah Powell