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SOU Says State Funding Model Unfairly Divides Money Between Universities

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Southern Oregon University
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A recent state report singled out Southern Oregon University as being financially unstable, but university officials say that report is based on unfair metrics and a poor funding model.

The 2019 evaluation reads, “given declining enrollment and increasing expenses, the need remains clear to further reengineer the institution to identify opportunities while preserving academic quality.”

But SOU general counsel Jason Catz says that report fails to mention that SOU gets less money than any other public university in Oregon besides Eastern Oregon University.

“There are ways in which we’re being starved a little bit, so we can’t be our best selves,” Catz said at the SOU Board of Trustee meeting on Tuesday. “We can’t be our most efficient. We can’t keep costs down the way — for students — the way we truly intend.”

Every year, the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission — or, HECC— decides how to allocate state funds between its seven public universities. The commission uses a complex funding model that tends to favor technical education. Board members say the model disregards small, regional schools that excel in liberal arts degrees.

For the 2020 fiscal year, SOU is slated to get $22.7 million. By contrast, Oregon State University is projected to get the most state dollars at $134.8 million.

Oregon HECC Public University Budget Report Summary
Credit Oregon HECC Public University Budget Report Summary
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SOU usually gets fewer state dollars than any other public university other than Eastern Oregon University

April Ehrlich is an editor and reporter at Oregon Public Broadcasting. Previously, she was a news host and reporter at Jefferson Public Radio.