Managing growth remains an issue, president says in State of the University speech
Oregon State University’s new governing board and growing fund-raising strength bode well for the future despite significant challenges, President Ed Ray told the Faculty Senate on Thursday.
In his annual State of the University address, Ray warned that state support for higher education likely would remain mostly flat for the next several years while federal funding streams continue to shrink.
But OSU’s current financial position is solid, he said, with an 8 percent fund balance and growing support from private donations, industry partnerships and athletic department broadcast contracts.
At the same time, the creation of an independent governing board will help the university seize control of its own destiny as it executes its strategy of recruiting high-performing and diverse students and faculty, broadening relationships with the business community and building on its newfound fundraising momentum.
“We cannot predict or control many of the changes we will face over the next five years,” Ray said, “but we can choose our course wisely.”
In a major shift in governance structure, OSU took advantage of a change in state law this year to sever its ties with the Oregon University System and form a 15-member board of trustees that will formulate policy, write budgets and set tuition rates.
Ray said the move would allow Oregon State to keep pace with rivals Portland State and the University of Oregon and adapt rapidly to new challenges. In the same vein, he noted that the university is in the midst of revising its primary planning document and expects to release what it calls Strategic Plan 3.0 during the winter term.
Ray devoted a portion of his speech to talking about efforts to curb enrollment growth on the Corvallis campus, which is up about 4.5 percent this year to an estimated 24,700. The university hopes to slow the rate of increase on the main campus in future years while channeling a larger share of growth to online classes and satellite campuses in Bend and Newport.
“We already face legitimate concerns with respect to parking shortages and traffic congestion in Corvallis, the livability of the near-campus communities, the cost of housing for families and the quality of life that we all value so greatly here,” he said.
In response to those concerns, Ray stressed, the university is working closely with civic leaders through the Collaboration Corvallis process. It is spending $300,000 a year on staffing to expand student conduct code enforcement off campus and is implementing a new program requiring freshmen to live in dorms their first year and giving them transition training before they move into an apartment in town.
On the academic side, Ray argued that OSU was making progress toward its goal of becoming a top-tier land grant institution on a number of different fronts:
• The university has repackaged its academic offerings by eliminating low-enrollment majors, consolidating colleges and departments and creating new interdisciplinary programs.
• OSU has upped its recruitment of high-achieving, minority and international students.
• Hiring of minorities is up, with 11.9 percent of faculty and staff positions falling into that category last year.
• More than 30 new tenure-track faculty were added last year, and OSU expects to hire up to 50 faculty and 24 academic support staff in each of the next several years.
• The university has recently completed or begun work on a number of significant building projects, including three student cultural centers, an expanded bookstore, a classroom building for the College of Business, an academic support center, a major student union expansion and a new track and field complex.
Finally, Ray offered an update on the Campaign for OSU, the university’s first campuswide fundraising push. Launched in 2007 with a target of $625 million, the campaign has long since eclipsed that goal and has now raised $956.6 million. OSU now hopes to reach the rarefied $1 billion plateau by the end of 2014.
In the process, Ray noted, the university has greatly broadened its donor base, with 164 contributions of $1 million or more.
“That number is more than three times the total number of million-dollar gifts we have received in our entire previous history,” he told the faculty members.
“That is an extraordinary accomplishment and one of which each and every one of you should be extremely proud.”
Contact reporter Bennett Hall at email@example.com or 541-758-9529.