SALEM — The first draft of a bill to give some universities more independence from the statewide university system would prohibit them from raising in-state undergraduate tuition more than 5 percent a year.
The legislation, which is in a very early stage, has been drafted in response to demands by some universities for more autonomy over their own operations. The debate was intensified when former University of Oregon President Richard Lariviere was fired in part for charting his own course in conflict with the statewide board.
A special legislative committee appointed to study the matter is scheduled to hear public testimony on the proposal Thursday.
“The goal here is to allow these universities to reach their highest potential, to be the best they can be, while also preserving the integrity of a state system that’s open and accessible to everyone who wants to avail themselves of higher education,” said Sen. Mark Hass, a Beaverton Democrat who is co-chairman of the legislative panel.
Many of the details have yet to be worked out, and Hass said it’ll be refined many times before it even reaches a vote in the House or Senate.
Under the draft, universities would be able to create local governing boards with limited control over the school’s operation — if they want to, and if they’re capable. Their request would have to be approved by some entity yet to be determined. University of Oregon and Portland State University have expressed interest in such flexibility.
The local boards would have authority to hire and fire the president “in consultation” with the state Board of Higher Education and the governor. The board also would be able to hire and fire faculty and staff and to determine their wages.
Local board members would get to set tuition for graduate and nonresident students without restrictions, but they wouldn’t be allowed to increase tuition beyond 5 percent without the approval from the statewide board, the Oregon Education Investment Board or the Legislature.
The local governing board would also be able to take on debt in the form of revenue bonds, with the approval of the state treasurer, and mortgages.
The 13 board members would be appointed by the governor and be confirmed by the Senate, some of whom would have to be representatives of the student body, faculty, staff and the statewide board.