OSU: Trustees Signal Tuition Hikes, Talk Elliott Forest Plans
Oregon State University’s Board of Trustees met Thursday and Friday, tuition increases and progress on plans for managing Elliott State Research Forest were the advertised highlights.
Discussion of tuition was more conclusive for returning students, and less so for incoming.
On Thursday, the board’s Finance and Administration Committee heard a report on preliminary tuition scenarios for the 2023-24 fiscal year. The university’s current plan would continue the practice of raising tuition for continuing students at no more than the rate of inflation of salaries, benefits and materials for the next year, currently estimated at about 3.9%.
But, tuition rates for new students might increase somewhat more than inflation to help support new programs and initiatives, so we’ll see.
Based on input from the board, the University Budget Committee, students and other stakeholders, a proposal with the president’s recommendations for tuition rates and fees will be presented at the board’s April meeting,
The committee also heard an update on university budget planning for the 2024 fiscal year. Enrollments, revenues and expenses are more typical of pre-pandemic operations, and uncertainties are likely to come from state funding decisions and concerns about a mild recession in late 2023, committee members learned.
Elliott State Research Forest
OSU and state officials, with consultation from a stakeholder group, are negotiating terms of a potential agreement for the university to provide research management of the 82,000-acre forest, which is situated in the Coast Range near Reedsport. The OSU Board of Trustees is expected to consider the terms of a potential agreement at its April 14 meeting. If adopted, the resulting agreement would be voted on by a new Elliott State Research Forest Authority Board of Directors anticipated to be formed by the state on Jan. 1, 2024.
“The university envisions the forest supporting scientific collaboration that addresses critical questions related to forest ecosystems, management and sustainability,” said Tom DeLuca, dean of OSU’s College of Forestry.
Three years ago, Oregon’s State Land Board asked OSU and the Department of State Lands to examine the potential for the Elliott State Forest’s future. Since then, the university has worked with the Department of State Lands and many stakeholder groups and community members to develop a proposed vision for turning the forest into a world-class research location while also incorporating public values such as recreation, conservation, education, cultural values and the local economy.
Trustees heard support for the university to pursue management of the research forest by four members of the forest advisory board: Keith Tymchuk, Reedsport community leader; Bob Sallinger, conservation director for the Portland Audubon Society; Melissa Cribbins, former Coos County Commissioner; and Colin Beck, a representative of the Confederated Tribes of the Coos, Lower Umpqua and Siuslaw Indians.
Schueler Re-elected, Strategic Plan Review
Trustees heard an update on Friday regarding the university’s continuing efforts to complete Strategic Plan 4.0, which has guided OSU since 2019 and concludes this year. The plan is driven by four institutional goals: preeminence in research, scholarship and innovation; delivery of transformative education accessible to all learners; significant and visible impact on Oregon and beyond; and an institutional culture of belonging, collaboration and innovation. University leaders reported that 97% of the initially planned projects have been started and that the average completion across the 20 actions is approximately 83%.
Trustees also approved the re-election of Kirk Schueler as board chair.
Also on Friday, the board:
Approved amendments to the university’s investment policy and changes to the name and charter of the board’s Executive and Audit Committee. The committee will now be known as the Executive, Audit and Governance Committee.
Heard a legislative update on the 2023 legislative session and higher education matters being considered.
Heard an update on a legislative workgroup efforts regarding governance practices and policies used by board of trustees at Oregon’s seven public universities.
Heard an update on OSU’s Administrative Modernization Program, which will implement new university technology systems, data practices and policies to increase the university’s organizational agility. Once the program is in place, OSU’s administrative costs are anticipated to fall by approximately $10 million annually beginning in fiscal year 2028. Savings will be primarily driven by a reduced need for upkeep of increasingly obsolete technology systems, along with streamlined business processes.
Heard reports from student leaders on the university’s Corvallis and Bend campuses, and updates from leaders within the OSU Faculty Senate, the OSU Foundation, the trustees’ presidential transition committee and the Higher Education Coordinating Commission.
During Friday’s board meeting, trustees heard public testimony from three students and one community member regarding OSU’s research forest and the proposed Elliott State Research Forest; a student regarding Board of Trustees meetings being more accessible to students; and a Corvallis community member regarding plans to construct upper division and graduate student housing near Southwest 11th Street and Madison Avenue.
Several board committees met on Thursday:
The Executive & Audit Committee approved the 2022 progress report and 2023 annual plan from the Office of Audit, Risk and Compliance and discussed enterprise risk management and stipends for members of public boards, within state policy, whose income falls below certain levels.
The Executive & Audit Committee and Finance and Administration Committee, in a joint meeting, accepted the annual financial statements from fiscal year 2022 and the single audit report from fiscal year 2021.
The Academic Strategies Committee received the provost’s report; heard a status report on academic programs in development or review, institutional accreditation and program accreditations; received an update on the university’s next strategic plan; and heard briefings on university research and innovation work and OSU’s internationalization and global engagement activities.
The Finance and Administration Committee accepted investment reports from the first quarter of the 2023 fiscal year; amendments to the university’s investment policy; and an annual internal bank report. The committee also discussed a revised Corvallis campus budget model; updated financial metrics to monitor the financial health of the university; and heard a report on the university’s goals and efforts related to working with small and diverse firms that provide goods or services to the university.