There is a fresh breeze blowing through the Oregon university system.

Instead of competing like they do on the football field, all the branches of the university system, as well as community colleges, are trying to find ways to work together.

This is the message brought to Pendleton last week by the presidents of Eastern Oregon, Oregon and Oregon State universities.

They stopped by the East Oregonian edit board the day before they got on horses for the Friday parade through town.

The message, simply put, is that the cavalry of state funding is not coming. The universities must tap private funding and find ways to provide top-quality education with fewer resources.

The University of Oregon, notes its President Richard Lariviere, covers only about 5.7 percent of its budget each year from state funds. It is between 8-9 percent at Oregon State and goes up to 35 percent at EOU.

Obviously, the main branches of the system, that also includes Portland State University, have better opportunities to tap alumni and research funding as sources of dollars to support their institutions. EOU and the smaller branches must rely more heavily on state funding. 

Tuition also is a big source of funds and has become increasingly important. The price of college, as reflected in escalating tuition charges, also is hammering parents and students who are seeking an education. EOU is planning to charge out-of-state tuition as a way to gain new dollars.

Despite this funding challenge, the three presidents told the EO edit board they are very excited about the new vision and initiative launched by Gov. John Kizhaber to send more Oregon students to college while forming an Education Investment Board to help educators target their resources.

They discuss this program in news story in today’s East Oregonian.

It is refreshing to see Oregon’s top college leaders looking at the same playbook.

The governor’s goal is likely a little unrealistic. It is hard to image 80 percent of Oregon students will achieve some form of higher education. Not everyone will graduate from college.

Yet the magic of a vision combined with tight funds may spark change in how we use state resources to better serve our students.

OSU President Ed Ray described this vision and initiative as “unique” in the country.

We join the presidents in hoping it leads to the kind of cooperation amongst the state universities, community colleges and high schools that helps restore Oregon as a leader in educating its students.

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