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  • SOU must focus on fiscal stability as it forms new board

  • The Oregon State Board of Higher Education will closely monitor the financial stability of Southern Oregon University as the school prepares to form a self-governing board.
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  • The Oregon State Board of Higher Education will closely monitor the financial stability of Southern Oregon University as the school prepares to form a self-governing board.
    SOU will be expected to strengthen the school's mission, remain competitive and set long term goals in order for the board to remain in place, according to a set of conditions outlined by the OSBHE last week.
    SOU's governing board will assume authority on July 1, 2015.
    "The idea is that as we move forward, we are showing faculty progress," President Mary Cullinan told members of the Faculty Senate.
    Within 18 months of forming SOU's institutional board, the university will be assessed three times on its progress towards financial stability, including the amount of money in reserves, enrollment analysis and the institution's debt burden ratio.
    "This is a huge change for higher education in Oregon," said Di Saunders, communication director for the Oregon University System. "But the board (of higher education) has confidence that it can be done."
    In April, the state board voted to "endorse with conditions" self-governing boards at SOU and Eastern Oregon University, both of which are facing financial difficulty.
    "It's really an accountability piece," said Saunders. "We needed to put some conditions on them."
    Oregon's two other public regional and technical institutions, Western Oregon University and the Oregon Institute of Technology, as well as Oregon State University, Portland State University and the University of Oregon received endorsements for intuitional boards without conditions.
    All are currently operating under the authority of the state higher education board, with the latter three universities rolling out their governing boards on July 1 of this year and the four smaller institutions on July 1, 2015.
    Saunders said that the OSBHE was under a time constraint to make its decision on whether to allow institutional governing boards and while they did endorse the boards, extra conditions were imposed on SOU and EOU, both of which are undergoing cutbacks.
    The board asked SOU in April to focus on stabilizing its budget through an in-progress retrenchment plan before moving forward with the institutional board.
    SOU won't begin governing its own campus until next July, but the first phase of the conditions process begin immediately, according to Saunders.
    The state board and the chancellor's office will begin working with SOU administration and soon-to-be appointed board trustees to start the university on a path to meeting each condition.
    Final board trustee appointments will be made by Gov. John Kitzhaber and confirmed by the Oregon Senate, likely sometime later this year, Saunders said. Boards will include a student, faculty member and non-faculty staff member from the university. Other members can be community members, business leaders or people from out of the area with a connection to SOU.
    — Teresa Ristow
    Read more in Saturday's paper.
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