The Oregon State University Board of Trustees on Friday approved a fiscal year 2021 balanced budget that seeks to manage an anticipated need for $124 million in expense reductions across the university’s statewide operations resulting from impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The $1.330 billion approved revenue budget assumes that anticipated guidance from Gov. Kate Brown and the state health authority will allow some on-site activities at Oregon State campuses and facilities in late summer, including a mix of face-to-face, remote and online instruction and operations in late summer and fall term.
“This budget focuses on delivering on the university’s mission and providing access to a high-quality education for all learners even during the unprecedented impacts of the pandemic,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “This budget takes into account that there are many unknowns for the next academic year as it regards enrollment, state funding reductions, possible additional federal support and what will be the prevalence of virus that causes COVID-19.
“Our financial planning is based on a foundational commitment that prioritizes public health safety and personal well-being throughout OSU, in the communities in which we are located and in the communities that OSU serves.”
Ray said the university is expected to suffer significant state cuts beginning July 1. He also said that university auxiliary programs, including housing and dining services and athletics, may experience significant revenue reductions as a result of the pandemic.
Trustees considered six financial scenarios and acknowledged the budget will likely need further revisions due to COVID-19 uncertainties and the pandemic’s impact on enrollment, especially among out-of-state and international students, and state and federal funding.
The budget gap includes shortfalls of almost $49 million on OSU’s Corvallis campus; $1.8 million at OSU-Cascades in Bend; about $15 million for the statewide programs that OSU operates – Extension Service, 14 agricultural experiment stations and forest research laboratories; almost $10 million for athletics; and nearly $16 million for University Housing & Dining Services.
The university will take multiple steps to fill the financial gap. These include reduced spending on facilities improvements, and services and supplies such as travel and professional development; reduced personnel costs through delayed hiring; personnel cost reductions through a variety of measures, including a temporary salary reduction program, some workshare furloughs, layoffs and leaves-without-pay in lieu of layoff; as well as the strategic use of reserve funds.
Trustees recognize outgoing univeristy president: The Board of Trustees also voted unanimously to award the title president emeritus to Ray, who has served as university president for 17 years and will return to OSU’s teaching faculty on July 1. Board members each shared praise for Ray during the meeting.
“Thanks to Ed Ray’s 17 years of leadership, Oregon State University has achieved great milestones in advancing student success and inclusive excellence for all faculty, staff and students; growing and diversifying enrollment; significantly building fundraising and research development; and serving all Oregonians,” said Board Chair Rani Borkar.
“Thank you for taking OSU and our inaugural board of trustees on such a wonderful journey. We are grateful for everything you have done.”
Trustees presented Ray with a commemorative plaque acknowledging his achievements and an inscribed presidential medallion. The title of president emeritus takes effect July 1.
Pandemic response updates: During the audio-only web conference meeting required by COVID-19 stay-home orders and social distancing measures, the board also heard an update on the university’s response to the pandemic.
“We began planning for summer and fall terms by establishing general principles and guidelines to inform our plans,” said Ed Feser, provost and executive vice president. “These principles and guidelines are subject to future state executive orders and health authority guidance and are based on current public health advice, feedback from faculty and students, and the logistics of course scheduling.
“We are planning for low-density presence and a mixed modality approach to instruction on our campuses throughout OSU for the later parts of summer term and for fall term. On-site and field-based research activities will resume gradually and in compliance with health authority guidance.”
OSU’s plans include virus prevalence testing at its campuses in Corvallis and Bend and the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, as well as physical distancing and other public health measures, including the required use of face coverings in common university spaces and work areas.
The board also endorsed a $975 million funding request for all of Oregon’s public universities for the 2021-23 biennium. The request will now be sent to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission by all of Oregon’s public universities. HECC will use the funding request to inform its budget request to the governor. OSU’s portion of the request is $312 million for university operations related to instruction, research and public service. The request also seeks $155 million for the Extension Service, Agricultural Experiment Station and Forest research Laboratory.
The board also heard an update about the Corvallis Campus Vision, a planning effort that seeks to guide development of the campus in alignment with the university’s strategic plan and city of Corvallis comprehensive plans and development codes, while promoting safety, comfort, access and collaboration. The university is planning community meetings this summer and fall to discuss the plan. The plan is expected to be finalized next winter.
In other actions Friday, the board:
- Approved a policy that will govern a re-established university-provided presidential house. Funded by donor contributions and money from the sale of a previous university-provided president’s residence, the university recently purchased and renovated the house at 3480 SW Western Blvd. The residence also will serve as a place to engage university students, faculty, staff and community members.
- Advanced the PacWave Energy Test Facility, a wave energy test facility seven miles off the coast of Oregon, to the construction phase. The wave energy testing devices in the ocean will connect via undersea cables to an OSU-owned building in Seal Rock that will connect to the regional electrical grid. Construction of that building and the boring for the cable conduit from the beach to the building just south of Newport is expected to begin this year.
- Approved renovation of a building on Southwest Research Way in Corvallis that will serve as the practice facility for the OSU gymnastics team. The team will use the renovated facility in place of the Gladys Valley Gymnastics Center on the Corvallis campus. The new facility will nearly double practice space.
- Approved a new budget for the Finley Hall housing renovation project. The new cost will be $10.1 million, down from $10.5 million, and will be funded by university bond proceeds.
- Amended its Liquidity Management Policy to allow the university to work with independent banking institutions.
- Heard an update on legislative matters involving higher education.
During its public comment section, the board heard testimony from six faculty members regarding a collective bargaining agreement with the university and comment from a Corvallis community member regarding the university’s resumption plans.
The board heard reports from Faculty Senate President Dwaine Plaza; Higher Education Coordinating Commission Executive Director Ben Cannon; OSU Foundation board member Jon DeVaan; ASOSU President Rachel Josephson; Associated Students of Cascades Campus President Brian Chavez; and Presidential Transition Committee Chair Julie Manning.
Trustees held an executive session pursuant to Oregon law to conduct negotiations with persons designated by the board of trustees to carry out labor negotiations.
Earlier on Friday, the board’s Executive and Audit Committee met and reviewed the university’s risk management report and a progress report from the Office of Audit, Risk and Compliance.
The board’s Finance & Administration Committee met Tuesday.