As the student body presidents at Oregon’s seven public universities, we know the challenges that college students face, many of which go beyond the walls of a classroom.
This article first appeared in The Bulletin on May 25th, 2023.
In a few weeks, graduating seniors will walk across stages at all seven of Oregon’s public universities and receive degrees that represent so much more than an academic accomplishment.
These degrees represent so many unimaginable challenges that their recipients had to overcome, including a global pandemic and a shift to online learning. For many university students, the last few years have also challenged their ability to access basic needs, such as food and housing. Yet even with these challenges, students have been able to overcome these challenges, thanks to the services and support provided by our public universities.
As the student body presidents at Oregon’s seven public universities, we know the challenges that college students face, many of which go beyond the walls of a classroom. And we have seen how our universities have stepped up to provide not only the academic support that students need to be successful, but they have also opened food pantries, provided on-campus child care, helped connect students to low-income housing, and ensured that students are able to be successful in the classroom.
At the same time, we also know that our universities are doing more for students with less financial support from the state. Oregon ranks 45th in the country for per-student, state funding of public universities and invests less than half the national average in financial aid per public university student.
Every two years, the Legislature makes important funding decisions for our state, such as the level of public funding that will go toward our public universities. This year, we are asking, on behalf of our seven universities and the students we represent, for the Legislature to fully fund our public universities at $1.05 billion. This level of funding will allow our universities to continue providing the critical services that give students an opportunity to achieve a college degree.
We are also asking that the state increase the Oregon Opportunity Grant, Oregon’s main need-based state financial aid program, to $400 million. College is expensive, and often, the cost of attending a public university can make the difference whether someone receives a degree that will support their future career goals and improve their upward mobility. Financial aid programs like the grant program allows students from low-income families who otherwise may never have thought college was an option to attend a four-year university. To give them an opportunity for success.
The student bodies at Oregon’s public universities are increasingly diverse, and our universities have stepped up to provide wraparound services for these students with financial aid, academic support, career development and basic needs support. Students are grateful for the services our universities provide, but now we are asking the state to do its part. We are asking the Legislature to fully fund our public universities so more students can walk across a stage at one of our seven public universities and receive a college degree that they never thought they would have an opportunity to earn.
BY LUDA ISAKHAROV, KODEE HARWOOD, ALICIA GERRITY, MATTEO PAOLA, KIERRA WING, CAITLYN CEVALLOS and SASHA RABICH
Luda Isakharov is president of the associated students of the University of Oregon. Kodee Harwood is president of the associated students of Western Oregon University. Alicia Gerrity is president of the associated students of Southern Oregon University. Matteo Paola is president of the associated Students of Oregon State University. Kierra Wing is president of the associated students of Portland State University. Caitlyn Cevallos is president of the associated students of Eastern Oregon University. Sasha Rabich is president of the associated students of Oregon Institute of Technology.