A story in Tuesday's Tidings highlighted the sizable investment in capital improvements — to the tune of $132 million — being made on the Southern Oregon University campus. A Wednesday editorial dutifully noted that's a good thing, for both the university and the community.
But another higher education story from Tuesday's paper shouldn't go without more notice: the story detailing the financial hardships faced by students at SOU and other Oregon universities in a state that ranks near the bottom in support for higher education.
The "other" higher ed story told the stories of students dealing with what one described as a "predatory" system that puts students so deeply in debt that they are left struggling not only financially, but emotionally and psychologically. One student aiming for a master's in social work figured her debt would be $150,000, while an undergrad junior already had amassed $36,000 in debt, even as she worked 30 hours a week outside of school.
No big mystery why the debt load is so high: Oregon ranks 47th in per-student funding for two- and four-year public institutions, while it is the 17th-most expensive. Do the math: It adds up to an empty checking account.
Oregon's higher education system is the only major portion of the state budget that has not been restored to 2007 funding levels. Oregon's 40-40-20 graduation goal is a hollow joke without adequate funding. Oregon's efforts to firm up its economic base are doomed to fail without an educated workforce. Is the Legislature sleeping in class again?