Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

World ends, higher education hit hardest

As a University of Oregon alum, I received an "important message" from University President Dave Frohnmayer yesterday (emphasis in original):
We are at a critical time in the budget negotiations in Salem, and I need your help to protect our state funding. In December, Governor Ted Kulongoski proposed a budget for higher education that would provide stability and begin to undo a decade of disinvestment. However, the budget recently proposed by the co-chairs of the Ways and Means Committee takes a significant step backwards from the governor's request. Simply put, this proposal, if enacted, would degrade the quality of the University of Oregon.
It would degrade the quality of the school? Wow, it must be bad. You'd think Republicans were in charge of the budget, but no -- the Ways & Means co-chairs are Sen. Kurt Schrader of Canby and Rep. Mary Nolan of Portland, both Democrats.

The email continues:
The co-chairs have cut $35 million from the Oregon University System operating budget. This includes cuts to enrollment growth and faculty salaries. If enacted, the cuts would mean higher tuition for Oregonians. The co-chairs also cut 83 percent from the Oregon University System capital construction budget.
Thirty-five million? What are they thinking? Did Karl Rove plant mind probes into their brains?

It concludes by asking me to contact the committee members to express my concern "about the proposed cuts to higher education - concern that is being conveyed almost daily in newspaper editorials across the state."

Oh, newspapers are editorializing against it? Double wow. It must be really bad.

But wait.

At Rogue Pundit, we get a clearer picture of what's really going on. RP wrote last week that the current higher ed budget is $735 million, which was actually about $6 million less than the 1999-2001 figure. Clearly, the higher ed budget has slipped over the last eight years, so for 2007-2009, Gov. Kulongoski proposed a new budget figure of $859 million, an increase of almost 17 percent.

The Ways & Means co-chairs reduced Kulongoski's proposal to $843 million, so it's only an increase of nearly 15 percent. So what President Frohnmayer calls a "cut" is really just a smaller increase, and what he claims will "degrade the quality of the University of Oregon" is really a lie.

Yes, that's right. A lie. It might not be the increase Mr. Frohnmayer wanted. It might not even be the increase that's justified. But an additional $108 million dollars will not degrade the university system or the U of O, and I believe Mr. Frohnmayer knows it. And his threat of higher tuition is a reprehensible, unjustified threat.

(The governor's recommendation of $483 million for community colleges was reduced to $458 million; and his $401 million budget for university construction bonds was reduced to $56 million, because the Ways & Means co-chairs were concerned about the level of the state's already-existing debt load. But those figures do not "degrade" the university, either.)

Rogue Pundit makes another interesting observation: inflation over the last eight years has increased by 23.2 percent, so even a 17 percent increase falls behind inflation. It would have to be $914 million to match inflation.

But meanwhile, the K-12 budget, which was $4.6 billion in '99-01, is scheduled to increase to $6.245 billion in '07-09, an increase of almost 36 percent.

If we were concerned with keeping up with inflation, that figure would only be $5.67 billion, or a difference of almost six hundred million dollars. If we kept the K-12 budget at the rate of inflation, we could bring the university system up to the inflation level and still have half a billion dollars to fill a rainy-day fund without increasing taxes on corporations.

If we wanted.

Labels: , ,


  • At 4/10/2007 10:58 AM, Blogger OregonGuy said…

    Granted, games are being played. And I can understand your reaction to being "played". Budget discussions too often fall into "increasing decreases" viewed at "decreasing increases" and the like. A lot of political talk is hot air. Hmm.

    In fairness, I like and respect Dave Frohhmayer and don't think his words lend themselves to such a harsh critique. His job is to lobby for his school and his students. And his staff. Pick up the phone and call him. I think he would surprise you. You can reach him at (541) 346-3036. Or, email him at pres@uoregon.edu.

  • At 4/11/2007 10:20 PM, Blogger Ken said…

    OG -- I sent an email to him, and I'm still waiting...

  • At 4/13/2007 11:15 AM, Blogger OregonGuy said…

    Thanks. If you've never met him, he is truly one of the nicest guys I've ever met. And blindingly smart. And finally, honest.

    I know you'll post when he responds.

    Thanks for you posts.

  • At 4/15/2007 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Pres Frohnmayer may be a great guy - perhaps even an honest one - but it must be hard for him to talk about state funding with a straight face. He's tripled his own salary in years, and is now earning more than $500K - far more than what Presidents at equivalent schools earn. This is not exactly leadership by example.


Post a Comment

<< Home