Press Release

Contact: Di Saunders – Office, 503-725-5714; Cell, 503-807-5539

Higher Ed Board reviews universities' performance,
Joint Boards of Education praise real advances in improving postsecondary student success

PORTLAND, Nov. 3 – The State Board of Higher Education (the “Board”) and its committees and the Joint Boards of Education (including Education and Higher Education) met yesterday and today at Portland State University, reviewing the performance and financial status of each of the Oregon University System campuses, and the progress of Senate Bill 342 regarding student success in Oregon, among other items considered by the Board.
OUS Performance 
Susan Weeks, OUS vice chancellor for strategic programs and planning, introduced the 2006 Annual Report on Campus Performance and Target-Setting. She noted that campuses track 12 separate performance indicators, plus 2 additional campus-specific ones, with targets developed for some of these. Specific tracked indicators include: (1) degrees awarded and those in shortage areas: degrees increased at the large universities and OIT, but were down at the regional universities; engineering/technology degrees are exceeding targets, with future increases anticipated in engineering, while computer science growth is more modest, reflecting national trends; recent growth in teacher education degrees are expected to be sustained at the higher level at one campus, and is flat or shows irregular patterns at 2 campuses; (2) sponsored research continues to show strength; (3) degree completion rates are up at all but 2 universities; (4) graduate success after leaving OUS in employment or graduate school is up at all but 1 university; (5) student retention has increased at 4 universities and decreased at 3 universities; (6) student/faculty ratios have declined, consistent with targets set for this; full time faculty numbers increased at each campus, and enrollment was lower than expected; the percent of part time faculty declined at 4 institutions; and (7) faculty total compensation on average is approaching peers, although salaries alone are considerably lower than peers, between 80-88% of that average; 6 OUS campuses rank at the very bottom of peers on salaries, with one second from the bottom.

Each university president or designee reported on performance at his/her campus. George Pernsteiner, chancellor of the OUS, summarized the key issues raised by the campuses. He said that the positive trends and improvement in sponsored research, graduate success -- including more OUS grads getting jobs and enrolling in graduate school -- and degree completion rates are reflections of the success at our universities due to the excellent work of the presidents, faculty and staff, student effort, and the work of the Board. But in examining the warning signs for OUS from the prior year to this year’s report, these have moved from indicators which are inputs to indicators which are outputs, including degrees awarded and retention rates which are starting to decline at some campuses; teacher shortages that we are not meeting at the levels required; and faculty salaries that continue to track well below peers. These are effectiveness measures of what we do and how we do it. As noted by many of the presidents, retention rates and student success are directly affected by budgets, reductions in which are reflected in the declines in these measures. Pernsteiner noted that 6 of the 7 campuses reduced budgets significantly for this academic year, so there are fewer resources, and thus fewer support services for students. He also noted the 22% reduction in fund balances in the current biennium, saying, “OUS is not in a sustainable financial position as a system, and we have a very fragile financial condition. That is the wisdom of and the necessity for the state to make the investment in higher education proposed in the 2007-2009 budget. This will enable us to make the necessary investments needed to ensure student success in Oregon.”

Joint Boards
The Joint Boards of Education and Higher Education met on November 2, providing a progress report on the status of Senate Bill 342, including components which increase student success in high school in preparing for college, successful transition into college, and transfer between 2- and 4-year institutions that facilitates student degree completion. The Joint Boards praised the work of the Excellence in Delivery and Productivity Working Group of the Board of Higher Education, and the Unified Education Enterprise subcommittee of the Joint Boards Working Group for their aggressive, productive and very successful efforts in making changes in areas over a short period of time which have needed reform for decades. Progress on SB342 surpassed requirements, and included: re-examining the purpose and structure of the Associate of Arts/Oregon Transfer degree and work with faculty at OUS and the community colleges on recommendations for change; clarifying career pathways in areas where Oregon’s need is high through establishment of statewide collaborations to remove roadblocks and increase quality of student preparation; developing a common understanding of General Education outcomes and course criteria through the work of cross-sector faculty; developing and fully implementing the Oregon Transfer Module, now offered at all 24 public colleges and universities, which allows students to fully transfer this core set of courses to any of these institutions and not lose any credits, improving transfer success and dual enrollment programs; creating a statewide linkage of campus-based “degree audit systems” called ATLAS, which informs students which credits are transferable between campuses, again facilitating ease of transferability; standardizing the amount of credit awarded for scores on Advanced Placement (AP) exams offered in high schools, with consensus on 33 AP exams reached by OUS and community colleges, with implementation in fall 2007; and expanding early college programs in high schools, addressed in Senate Bill 300, that better prepare students for academic success in college.

In other action and discussion at the meetings, the Board and/or Committees:

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