Universities seek funding from state during legislative session

First published in Around the O on April 23, 2021.

As the 2021 session of the Oregon Legislature passes the halfway mark, a handful of bills supported by the UO are in play, including proposals that will connect students with various benefits and expanding financial aid.

A current focus of the Legislature is building the state budget for the next two years and determining how to invest funding provided to Oregon through the American Rescue Plan Act signed into law by President Joe Biden in March. The Joint Committee on Ways and Means is currently holding virtual budget hearings in each congressional district in Oregon to gather community feedback about the 2021-23 budget, particularly seeking information on how the Legislature should balance the state budget and use federal funding from the American Rescue Plan.

The UO and Oregon’s other public universities are asking for investments in public higher education, including funding the Public University Support Fund at $900 million and the Oregon Opportunity Grant at $200 million. 

The UO also is seeking $58.5 million for the Heritage Project. The project would renovate and modernize UO’s oldest buildings, University and Villard halls, including making them accessible to all students.

UO Day at the Capitol is scheduled for Tuesday, May 25, as a virtual event. Faculty members, staff, students and alumni are encouraged to participate by advocating for higher education funding and support for UO initiatives being proposed during the session.

A video explains the role of advocates at UO Day at the Capitol. Registration is required and can be completed online.

A virtual orientation on Tuesday, May 24, will include special guest UO President Michael H. Schill.

“UO Day at the Capital being a completely virtual event makes it easier than ever for UO students, faculty, staff and alumni to participate,” said Kimberly Koops, UO associate director of advocacy. “Unlike previous in-person lobby day events that are a full-day commitment, this year advocates will participate in a short training the night before and then a couple of 15-minute meetings with legislators on May 25.”

Hans Bernard, associate vice president for state affairs, explained the value of UO Day at the Capitol.

“Legislators respond when they hear from those who are impacted by the decisions they make,” he said. “Having current students, faculty, staff and alumni participate in UO Day at the Capitol will help us make the case regarding UO’s needs this legislative session.”