What is good for students is good for Oregon universities. What is good for the OUS isn't always good for students.

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By Tim Young of Portland, Oregon. Tim is a former student body president at Portland State and a former member of the Oregon State Board of Higher Education. Previously, Tim contributed "HD-37: It's time to get behind Carl Hosticka".

Soon, legislators will be debating how to spend a huge chunk of our state’s debt capacity, roughly a billion dollars in the coming years (pdf, see page 2). At least a quarter of that should be used to set up a fund for scholarships for aspiring Oregon college students, through the vehicle of the existing Oregon Opportunity Grant. It's needed. If you haven’t heard of the spiraling costs of postsecondary education, please google it. Choking off access to college by making it unaffordable is not sound long-term policy. We are doing just that, here in Oregon and around the country. If student loan debt is even slightly lowered, after graduation students will have more money to spend in the local economy. That's good for all Oregonians. There are lots of other benefits to higher ed., but to the point:

It is anticipated that the hired guns from the universities will be arguing that the debt capacity should be spent on building the likes of past projects such as more dorms in downtown Portland where there is a plethora of other housing already available, and other capital projects that they will be advancing. I say hogwash. As the U of O snafus taught us with the firing of the UO president, it is at the end of the day we can count on our college administrators to make decisions in their best interest. I submit, they even do this when it runs contrary to the students’ best interest. I’ve seen it time and time again.

I am writing to appeal to our elected leaders to think past the spreadsheets folks from the UO will bring you for example, the graphs they will draw, the arguments they will make. Students haven’t come first in this state since before I was born. It is time to take a stand and do what is best for the students, and that is spending a portion of our state’s debt capacity on lowering students’ bills, not padding the C.V. of some adminstrator that just wants more rock walls on campus.

You cannot make an argument for capacity infrastructure maintenance and advancement when graduates can’t find jobs nor pay off their student loans to begin with, but I submit college lobbyists will try to make that exact argument nonetheless. Don’t be fooled. We are on the verge of another economic bubble in the student loan market and in order to help head that off, post-secondary end costs must go down and we must subsidize our fellow Americans' aspirations to better themselves through education.

Governor Kitzhaber, and the Oregon Legislature have an opportunity to make a nice dent in a huge problem. State Treasurer Ted Wheeler has an excellent plan to help lower costs for Oregon students. Please hear him out legislators, even if he has to compete for space in your office with the Oregon Duck Mascot itself.

Comments

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    Any good links for Ted Wheeler's plan? There have been similar proposals at the national level, but they've never gone anywhere. Generally speaking, they use bonding authority and private investment to provide the initial cash, then take a percentage of salary for a period of time, which has the effect of promoting public service.

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    Recentering higher ed on students is crucial to the health of our society.

    The corporatization of higher ed including public higher ed goes hand in hand with over-emphasizing the research element of scholarship and the corruption of the universities by letting private interests capture the benefit of public research investment, and letting university-based researchers privatize the benefits of their publicly subsidized work.

    More of the income from publicly subsidized research should be captured for public higher ed and more of it required to support the core teaching mission and to limit tuition and fees.

    In the 1990s the Labor Party platform advocated free public higher education for all, on the same principle as the original post-WWII G.I. Bill expanded to everyone. They estimated at that time it would cost $50 billion/year. Double that if you like -- it would still be well worth it.

    Turning graduates into serfs chained to their jobs by debt is a bad business.

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    Many thanks Mr. Lowe. Clearly, you know what you are talking about and I appreciate you reaching here in your post. Lots of work ahead. Doable, but lots of work.

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    Frankly, I'd much rather see the "corporate kicker" reform go into this than into K-12. I really think that corporations should play a bigger role in funding higher Ed; it just seems like it's ultimately to their benefit. I'd also like to see some incentives for students to return to Oregon after graduation.

    Bottom line though, is no student who works hard and does well in school should graduate from college with huge debt. That,s a worthy investment for taxpayers, unlike subsidizing investors with low cap gains taxes.

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