After a year of work by legislative task forces and interested stakeholders, SB 242 cleared its first policy committee last week, and is now in Ways and Means. SB 242 is a combination of the State Board of Higher Education’s bill and the work of the Legislative Task Force on Higher Ed. The bill imposes several major changes on the system, which will lead to more autonomy and clearer direction for the universities.
SB 242 creates a Higher Education Coordinating Commission, which redefines the higher education system’s structure, absorbs the Oregon Student Assistance Commission, and creates clear lines of management and accountability. The strategy and goal setting functions of the Coordinating Commission are to take into account contributions of each university in the system. The mission of the system is revised to meet Oregon’s 40-40-20 goals, and students are expressly included in the tuition setting process. The 40-40-20 goals are an effort to raise the bar for educational attainment by the year 2025 year. The goals are:
- 40% of Oregonians earning a four-year degree or more (currently 29.2%);
- Another 40% earning an associate’s degree or post high school certificate (currently 26.9%);
- The remaining 20% earning a high school diploma or equivalent (10.9% of Oregonians do not have a high school diploma today), and ready to enter the workforce.
At the heart of SB 242 is the performance compact which the University System must make with the Legislature. In return for increased autonomy and block grant-style funding, the System will agree to meet certain benchmarks, including goals related to how many students enroll each year, how many re-enroll after the first year and how many graduate with four year degrees.
Oregon’s business community has struggled to find skilled workers to meet its workforce needs. The increased autonomy and commensurate accountability of the University System to meet certain goals will increase opportunities for businesses to recruit and hire workers from within the state.