The Oregon Institute of Technology (Oregon Tech) Board of Trustees met February 23 and 24 at its Klamath Falls Campus to review the tuition setting process and relationship to the state budget, approve a new degree program in professional writing to move forward to the next step, receive an update on the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center (OMIC) planned opening, and to re-elect Dr. Lisa Graham and Dr. Steve Sliwa as Board Chair and Vice-chair, respectively.
Tuition and Budget Vice President for Finance and Administration, Brian Fox, provided information on the factors impacting tuition setting, budget, and institutional priorities. Fox noted that the finance officers from Oregon’s public universities are meeting with the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) and legislators on budget hydraulics and forecasts to help their Funding and Achievement Subcommittee understand the budget pressures affecting universities. These include continued increases in costs to fund biennial PERS costs, as well as healthcare increases in PEBB. Because of these costs that are not within the control of the public universities in Oregon, institutions are estimating tuition increases for fall 2017 that could exceed 10%, depending on the funding level provided by the state, which won’t be known until late June. The current biennial budget for 2015-17 is at the funding levels that the universities received a decade ago (2007). Without adjusting for inflation, institutions are still catching up in rebuilding core areas that support students once they get onto campus. Fox said that Oregon Tech is in a relatively strong position because we continue to experience enrollment increases and strong student and market demand for hands-on, applied programs.
Fox noted that Oregon Tech’s budget development process for 2017-18 is underway. This includes developing a revenue forecast, defining institutional needs, and establishing a baseline budget, with some assumptions about state funding and tuition levels, that can then be presented to the Board as a recommended budget. Some key ways that the university is increasing revenues to support students and operations is to strengthen growing in-demand programs while making investments focused on enrollment and on increasing completion rates. The balance between making key investments in a period with potentially lower state funding will likely bring about a deficit budget at Oregon Tech for a period of time until those investments come to fruition.
Regarding the tuition setting process at Oregon Tech, Fox noted that public forums are held on each campus in order to hear from stakeholders; and the Tuition Recommendation Committee – which includes students, faculty and staff -- meets multiple times to determine a recommendation to the President. Oregon Tech’s policy revolves around creating affordable access, bringing in a diverse group of students, being able to offer strong degree programs, supporting the long-term fiscal integrity of the university, and maintaining campus infrastructure.
New Program LeAnn Maupin, Interim Provost and Dean of the College of Health, Arts, and Sciences, presented follow up information on the proposed new degree program, a Bachelor of Science in Professional Writing. Maupin summarized the program, which has a technical and scientific underpinning that matches Oregon Tech’s specific mission. The program focuses on professional, technical, business, and scientific writing; and prepares individuals for academic positions or for professional careers as writers, editors, researchers, and related careers in business, government, nonprofit sector, and the professions. The new degree will include instruction in theories of rhetoric, writing, and digital literacy; document design, production, and management; visual rhetoric and multimedia composition; usability testing; web writing; and publishing in print and electronic media. After discussion by Board members, the program was approved unanimously, with a recommendation to forward to the Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) for the final approval step. Assuming that approval, the program is expected to launch in fall 2017.
OMIC Update Laura McKinney, Vice President for Oregon Tech’s Wilsonville campus, provided an update on the progress of the Oregon Manufacturing Innovation Center. She noted that once the Membership Agreements are completed and signed, that the OMIC will be able to move forward later this year and open its doors. Oregon Tech manages the landlord functions and is coordinating getting the site furnished and managing equipment donations with current partners; Boeing and others have identified equipment for placement in OMIC. To date, there are seven industry partners, as well as Oregon State University and Portland State University. Approvals for egress and ingress access into the site is underway with property owners.
McKinney noted that there is work underway to apply for a grant with the federal Economic Development Agency, which would fund infrastructure needs, including roads and building equipment; she noted that OMIC is working with the City of Scappoose and Oregon Business Development Department on the grant. Legislative engagement and support continues to be strong, with wonderful advocacy from Sen. Betsy Johnson, and support from Congresswoman Bonamici. The business plan is currently being developed, and will be reviewed by the OMIC Board. She said she is encouraged by the commitment of industry partners, including donations of equipment, and active engagement at board and technology road-mapping meetings. The Board commended the Oregon Tech OMIC team for all of their efforts to move this development forward quickly; and noting that it will have a profound affect in Scappoose.