Contact: Di Saunders, OUS communications director: 971-219-6869; diane_saunders@ous.edu

Higher Ed decentralization takes next step with Board’s endorsement of institutional boards for EOU, OIT, SOU and WOU

PORTLAND, April 4, 2014 – The State Board of Higher Education (the “Board”) today endorsed institutional governing boards for Eastern Oregon University, Oregon Institute of Technology, Southern Oregon University, and Western Oregon University. For EOU and SOU, the Board voted affirmatively but with conditions that will be determined in the next 45 days.

The four regional and technical universities are currently governed by the State Board of Higher Education.  Moving to self-governance for Oregon Tech and Western Oregon University will begin on July 1, 2015, giving these campuses over a year to prepare for institutional boards; and institutional boards may begin on that or a different date for EOU and SOU based on the parameters of the conditions. The state’s three largest universities – Oregon State University, Portland State University and University of Oregon – already have institutional boards, and will officially begin their governance responsibilities on July 1, 2014.

The leadership of the four technical and regional universities (the “TRUs”) have been discussing with the Board their request for institutional boards for several months as part of the process of determining the best governing model as the state moves to a decentralized structure for its public universities. Meetings of the Board this week provided a final opportunity for each campus to outline the rationale for wanting self-governance, for the Board to ask questions, and for public testimony related to the requests for institutional boards from campus stakeholders, including students, faculty, legislators, members of the business community, and others.

Matt Donegan, chair of the State Board of Higher Education said, “Today’s decision by the State Board of Higher Education to endorse a fully decentralized university system marks a new direction for higher education in the state. Campus-based boards can foster innovation by working much more closely with university and community leaders in addressing student, campus and community needs; and in fulfilling the university’s strategic vision and managing operations. This direction is aligned with the Governor’s plan for a seamless education system that is focused on outcomes, and enables campuses to be nimble in directing attention and resources towards the current and anticipated needs of students and the state’s workforce.”

In 2013, the Oregon Legislature adopted Senate Bill 270, establishing institutional boards to govern PSU and UO, and potentially for OSU should they wish to do so; OSU did establish a board. Additionally, this legislation, along with HB 4018-B adopted in the 2014 Session, allows presidents of Oregon’s technical and regional universities to “determine that the university should become a university with a governing board” and outlines a process for the State Board of Higher Education to “endorse,” “not endorse” , or “endorse with conditions” the presidents’ requests.

Oregon Tech and WOU can move forward immediately with the process of establishing their institutional boards, which includes the selection of board members put forward by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate so that these boards may begin their governance responsibilities on July 1, 2015. With the Board’s endorsement of Boards for EOU and SOU “with conditions,” those campuses now have 45 days to work to ensure that the conditions are mutually agreed to by the Board and the president making the request.  Before the conditions are effective, however, the mutually agreed upon conditions must be “endorsed”  by the Governor. 

Under HB 4018-B, passed in 2014, the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) is responsible for evaluating whether or not the conditions are met.  Importantly, the timeline, if any, is also a condition that must be “mutually agreed” to by the Board and the president, and endorsed by the Governor.  At the appropriate time, under HB 4018-B, the HECC may conduct a financial review and performance audit to determine whether or not the TRU institution has met the conditions.

In other action and discussion at today’s and previous meetings, the Board and/or its Committees:

  • Heard an update on outcomes from the 2014 Legislative Session, including those related to higher education governance and capital projects approved for some of the campuses.
  • Heard updates on the Board’s committee work and from working groups, including the OUS-HECC transition process, and the Shared Services entity.
  • Approved the policy on 2015-16 Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate Statewide Course Credit.
  • Approved the 2015-16 Undergraduates Admissions Policy.
  • Approved the OUS 2013 annual financial report.
  • Approved the new capital projects for consideration in the February 2014 legislative session.
  • Approved the technical and regional university 2015-2017 preliminary funding requests for submission to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
  • Heard reports from the Interinstitutional Faculty Senate and from the Oregon Student Association.

The Oregon University System (OUS) makes college a reality for Oregonians statewide by keeping higher education accessible, affordable and high quality. We integrate Oregon’s public universities with the entire PreK-20 education system to ensure student success. OUS’ higher education offerings meet the needs of Oregon’s economy today and in the future, contributing to the vitality of the state and the success of more than 20,000 graduates a year. For additional information, go to www.ous.edu.

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