Rick Bailey responds to community feedback from on proposed cuts
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey spent time in Salem this week, with plans to meet with the six other public university presidents, state House Speaker Dan Rayfield, and other key legislators regarding funding for SOU and other public higher education institutions across Oregon.
In a phone call with Ashland.news on Wednesday as he was traveling, Bailey said he will be in Salem through Friday to meet with state legislators and university presidents about how they as a group can advocate for funding together. Bailey is looking for ways SOU can be supportive to fellow regional universities as they work through fiscal challenges this year.
“I think every public higher education institution in Oregon and throughout the country, specifically regional institutions, will have challenges similar to ours,” Bailey told Ashland.news. “So the more we can show how to do this in a way that positions us toward fiscal success, the better, because that can then be a blueprint for our colleagues.”
Bailey said he addressed members of the House Higher Education Committee prior to the Feb. 16 town hall at SOU regarding their financial situation, though at the “30,000-foot” level of changing their fiscal model to avoid reliance on “skyrocketing tuition” to solve fiscal challenges.
Earlier in February, Bailey and Board of Trustee Daniel Santos testified in front of the Oregon House Rules Committee regarding SOU’s 150th anniversary.
During his time in Salem this time around, the Oregon House planned to introduce a House Concurrent Resolution recognizing the anniversary, Bailey said.
“I’m very, very excited about that,” Bailey said on Wednesday.
Bailey met with then-soon-to-be Gov. Tina Kotek in December, and said she seemed very interested in SOU’s intentionality in changing its structural fiscal model. Though he did not plan to meet with her during this visit, he said that her support for the university’s planned change of its fiscal model is a “very, very good sign.”
Bailey expressed gratitude that Gov. Kotek has recommended a budget that includes one-time funding for the current biennium, specifically set aside for regional universities, which includes SOU.
“That will not solve structural issues and it doesn’t negate the necessity of what we are engaging in now, but it is a very, very good sign that the governor is thinking about us and understands the challenges that we face,” Bailey said.
Bailey said he also planned to meet with members of the Oregon Legislature’s Ways and Means Committees, as well as state Sen. Jeff Golden and Rep. Pam Marsh, both Ashland Democrats.
Tuition increase anticipated, but lower than other regional universities
When asked about the level of tuition increase being considered for the upcoming year, Bailey said a committee has been formed to address this.
Known as the Tuition Advisory Council, the group is tasked with ensuring that SOU has the lowest tuition increase in the state among public universities, according to Bailey. The group is made up of students, faculty and staff, which will bring a recommendation before the SOU Board of Trustees for approval.
His goal is for a tuition increase to be in a range below 5%.
Bailey responds to reader feedback
A reader concerned about the danger of climate change reached out to Ashland.news about why the Master’s Degree in Environmental Education Program would be eliminated in the proposed budget.
Bailey reiterated that the program will continue for all currently enrolled students until they graduate.
“There is an opportunity as a part of this process, specifically with Environmental Education, to look at how both our education programs and our … Academic Sustainability programs can meet many of the needs of that program. And in addition to the academics, we also have through the partnership with Lithia, the creation of an Institute for Applied Sustainability.”
He also emphathized SOU’s interest in work toward ending Climate Change.
“SOU is and will remain committed to issues and projects and opportunities around sustainability,” Bailey said. “We’re very much committed to doing the work to help stem the tide of climate change and even to reverse it.”
In a press conference following the Feb. 16 town hall, Bailey said he learned of the fiscal challenges facing SOU on his third day on the job.
Bailey acknowledged that the cuts being considered are not optimal and that no one, including himself, wants to make cuts.
“I made an oath to SOU that I’ll be president in good times and I’ll be the president in challenging times,” Bailey said.
The next SOU town hall is scheduled for 10 a.m. March 9 in the Rogue River Room of the Stevenson Union at SOU.
Bailey will bring his plan for realignment to the Finance & Administration Committee of the SOU Board of Trustees at 5 p.m. March 16. The board will review the plan during a meeting at 5 p.m. March 17. They are expected to take action during a Board of Trustees meeting at or after 5 p.m. April 20. A full list of meeting dates is available at SOU’s website.
Those wishing to ask questions or share comments about the realignment plan can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Comments, questions, story ideas? Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at email@example.com.