Latest news from the UO

  • State Update: Revenue Forecast & Special Session

    June 19, 2020 12:40 pm Governor Kate Brown announced she will call the Oregon Legislature into a special session on Wednesday, June 24. Expected topics for the session will likely be limited to addressing impacts of COVID-19 on workers, employers, the economy, and families, as well as police accountability measures in response to the killing of George Floyd and numerous other Black Americans by police officers. At this time, it is expected that the Legislature will not re-balance the state’s budget in the wake of the pandemic. Instead, lawmakers will wait for a potential fourth federal stimulus package and convene later this summer to make necessary budgetary decisions. Please stay tuned to UO Advocates social media pages because we will need your advocacy to make sure higher education is protected from deep cuts that could have a negative impact on students for generations to come. The June 2020 Forecast: The Oregon Office of Economic Analysis released the June 2020 revenue forecast and economic outlook. The forecast represents the most probable outcome given available information to economists and helps policymakers craft necessary changes to the budget. The economy: The halt of economic activity due to the outbreak of COVID-19 made clear that Oregon is in recession and that recovery will take years. Economists do expect a bounce back in the second half of the year, so long as public health indicators related to the virus continue to allow for the easing of physical distancing measures and the re-opening of businesses. Really, full recovery won’t occur until there is a vaccine, there is a mutation in the virus that makes it less infectious, or herd immunity is achieved. Some good news: while this recession is extremely severe, it is expected to be shorter in duration than the Great Recession. What about the state’s revenue? Oregon has a more volatile revenue system than other states because it depends so much on personal and corporate income taxes. During economic downturns, income taxes might not fare as well in comparison to other revenue instruments. Taxes on lodging, gasoline, vehicle purchases, video lottery and marijuana sales are all much more substantial than they were during the last recession. While some taxes will fare better than others, all major revenue sources will face considerable downward pressure given the severity of the recession. General Fund and other major revenues have been reduced relative to the March forecast by $2.7 billion in the current biennium and $4.4 billion in the 2021-23 budget period. Fortunately, Oregon is better positioned than ever before to weather a revenue downturn. Automatic deposits into the Rainy Day Fund and Education Stability Fund have added up over the decade-long economic expansion, and stood at $1.6 billion in April. In addition to dedicated reserve funds, the General Fund had over one billion dollars in projected balances before the recession hit.

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  • Merkley, colleagues urge Senate leadership to include higher ed in next COVID relief bill

    June 15, 2020 11:05 am In a June 11 letter, US Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) led 30 US Senate colleagues in urging Senate leadership to include $47 billion in financial support for students and institutions of higher learning in the next COVID-19 emergency relief bill. The letter emphasized the substantial costs and losses already faced by institutions of higher education as enrollment declines and state cuts jeopardize the financial vitality of schools. To meet the needs of these schools and their students during this tumultuous time, the senators requested that significant additional emergency relief be provided by Congress, and that schools receive the flexibility they need to use the funding most effectively within their communities. The letter stated, “Congress responded in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to the emergency financial needs of students, colleges, and universities by providing $14 billion in support through the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund. However, students and institutions are experiencing vastly greater need.”   University of Oregon President Michael H. Schill and other university and community college leaders in Oregon praised Merkley’s ongoing leadership. “Senator Merkley continues to show enormous leadership in supporting students and higher education,” said Schill, “The last CARES bill provided direct financial relief to our students whose lives were disrupted by COVID-19 and to our universities that are suffering ruinous losses. We are incredibly proud and grateful to our senator for his strong and effective advocacy in working to ensure this virus doesn’t stop Oregonians from earning their degrees and achieving opportunity.”  Additional comments from Oregon university and community college presidents can be found here. The Senate is expected to start drafting the next relief package no sooner than after the July 4 recess. The US House of Representatives passed HEROES, its proposal for a fourth stimulus, earlier this month.

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  • DeFazio introduces transportation and infrastructure bill

    June 5, 2020 03:23 pm On June 3, Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Chair of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, released text of the Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation in America (INVEST in America) Act. The bill would allocate funds to infrastructure improvement and rebuilding that has been long overdue.  This bill is a key component of the Moving Forward Framework that House Democrats released earlier this year. The INVEST in America Act authorizes nearly $500 billion over five years to address some of the country’s most urgent infrastructure needs. The bill also accounts for the economic downturn caused by the global pandemic and ensures States, cities, tribes, territories, and transit agencies can administer programs, advance projects, and preserve jobs in the aftermath of the COVID-19 crisis. “The bulk of our nation’s infrastructure—our roads, bridges, public transit and rail systems, the things that hundreds of millions of American families and businesses rely on every single day— is not only badly outdated, in many places it’s downright dangerous and holding our economy back,” Chair DeFazio said. “That all changes with the INVEST in America Act... The INVEST in America Act is our opportunity to replace the outdated systems of the past with smarter, safer, more resilient infrastructure that fits the economy of the future, creates millions of jobs, supports American manufacturing, and restores U.S. competitiveness.”  Included in the bill is $2 million for The NEXUS (Navigating Emerging Technologies and Urban Spaces) online database, a resource hosted by UO’s Urbanism Next Center that assists decision-makers in creating new policies regarding the potential effects of innovations such as autonomous vehicles and e-commerce. On June 17 the committee will markup the bill and it’s expected that a floor vote will happen in the first week of July. 

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  • Anti-racism resources: What we’re reading this week

    Last week, the death of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis once again brought to the forefront the ugly picture of racial bigotry in our country. Like many of you, the UO Government and Community Relations (GCR) staff team is doing much reflecting, reading, listening, and learning. We’d like to share with you some resources to help us engage in change and become more educated; that’s what we do here at UO Advocates—we advocate. We’ve found these links to be insightful as we figure out how to better serve our UO GCR’s mission of building relationships that support all university constituencies, including Black students, faculty, staff, and alumni. The first is a document with links to webpages, videos, books, and other resources that are available to help us take care of ourselves and support each other, support people and communities of color, reflect, learn, and get involved. Some of these links are for UO staff and/or share a little about what UO communities are doing to support communities of color and call out and address system racism; most we hope are useful and compelling far beyond the boundaries of our campus community. In addition, here are some additional anti-racisms resources: Anti-Racism Resources for White People Luvvie’s Anti-Racism Reading List White Ally Toolkit President Obama’s Essay (which includes a link to resources) Tasha’s Anti-Racism Resources   In the coming weeks, we plan to share additional resources and highlight some of the work UO faculty and researchers are doing to examine, and hopefully change, systemic racism and inequity.

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  • UO leaders speak out against hatred, racism and violence

    First published in Around the O on May 31, 2020. University of Oregon leadership, including President Michael H. Schill, the Vice President for Student Life Kevin Marbury, Vice President for Equity and Inclusion Yvette Alex-Assensoh, and Provost Patrick Phillips are speaking out against hatred, racism and violence. “George Floyd’s tragic and senseless killing by a white police officer on a street in Minneapolis shocks, saddens and outrages all of us.” “As leaders of this university it is important to speak out against these and other less publicized atrocities inflicted against people of color in our nation. We call on our entire university community and nation to recognize that these are not isolated events, but instead reflect a society deeply in need of transformation and healing,” said the leaders “Now is the time to raise our voices and send the message that hatred and violence toward people of color and other marginalized groups must stop. In the words of the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., ‘the ultimate tragedy is not the oppression and cruelty by the bad people but the silence over that by the good people.’” In a statement issued on May 29, they said these injustices are happening during a time when COVID-19 is having a disproportionate impact of communities of color.

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  • Merkley urges Senate to increase funding for TRIO programs

    May 21, 2020 02:30 pm U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) was joined by Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Jon Tester (D-MT) in leading a bipartisan group of 40 senators seeking to ensure increased financial relief for Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO). TRIO programs are eight federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds, offering grants to institutions of higher education that serve and assist lower-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to postbaccalaureate programs. TRIO also includes a training program for directors and staff of TRIO projects.   In a May 15 letter addressed to congressional leadership, Sen. Merkley and 39 other senators urged Congress to include significant funding for TRIO programs in an upcoming fourth coronavirus relief package. The letter comes as a response to the economic and social difficulties facing many financially vulnerable students due to the coronavirus pandemic, including lack of access to reliable internet and career counseling.

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  • UO appeals to Oregon delegation for research relief

    May 20, 2020 01:29 pm On Monday, May 18, UO leadership sent a letter to the Oregon congressional delegation requesting university research workforce relief in the next coronavirus stimulus package. The letter, signed by President Michael Schill, Vice President for Research & Innovation David Conover, and Dean of the College of Education Randy Kamphaus, asked the Oregon delegation to include $26 billion in emergency supplemental funding for federal research agencies to allow for cost extensions to existing grants. Higher education associations arrived at the request by estimating four months of grant activity across all sponsored research agencies such as National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Science Foundation (NSF). The letter highlights that the total amount requested includes $75 million specifically for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). UO leaders pointed to the difficulties facing the UO research community, highlighting the impact of the holds placed on nearly all research efforts as a result of the government’s stay at home requirements. “Unless Congress acts, we are reaching a point where layoffs of grant-funded personnel will begin and accelerate as we move forward into summer,” the letter states. “Congressional action will assure that the federal funding agencies have supplemental funds to backfill losses on individual grants and thereby enable current projects to be completed once research reopens.”

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  • IRS clarifies that emergency financial aid grants are not taxable income

    May 8, 2020 08:03 am On May 7 the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued FAQs on the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund and Emergency Financial Aid Grants under the CARES Act. The FAQ clarifies that aid, including emergency aid to college students, should be treated as a "qualified disaster relief payment" and is not treated as taxable income.  See April 24 GCR Blog post about action by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities (APLU), the Association of American Universities (AAU), and the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) to seek clarification regarding taxability of these grants.

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  • Coalition calls to fund tech and science research in future coronavirus financial relief

    On Monday, May 4, the Task Force on American Innovation (TFAI) organized a letter and press release urging Congress to recommit funding to national tech and science research in any future coronavirus legislation. TFAI––a coalition of companies, business and university associations, and professional societies that advocate for federal investment in basic science research––was joined by seventeen other organizations in urging Congress to invest in the future health of the U.S. research enterprise. The 18-group coalition is raising alarm to the dramatic reduction in research activity across the country as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including the inability of U.S. companies and universities to train the STEM workforce. The letter further emphasizes the integral role that science and engineering research will play in rebuilding the United States economy and responding to the health challenges that result from the pandemic. The University of Oregon participates in several of the groups that signed the letter including The Science Coalition, Friends of IES (Institute of Education Sciences), and the National Photonics Initiative.

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