3/5/2011: The editorial board’s endorsement is, unfortunately, anything but unqualified:
The UO plan is an essential acknowledgment that if Oregon is to have any chance of achieving its ambitious higher education goals, it must get more — much more — private support for its public system.
We know the UO proposal isn’t likely to pass in this Legislature. It’s ill-timed, when the Legislature wants to focus on the necessary proposal from its higher education task force to end universities’ status as state agencies and give them vital autonomy.
The UO plan asks for too much, $800 million in future bonding authority from a state that, for the moment, has none to spare. It requires a statewide constitutional vote, a process that would be at best challenging. And it’s too narrowly focused, a life preserver for the UO, a cold splash of uncertainty for the state’s other universities. …
But donors will not give large amounts of money for operational support at any Oregon university as long as it’s possible — or even likely — that the Legislature would respond by withdrawing even more public funding. On this point, the UO is absolutely right: The universities must have the guarantee of dedicated state funding when they go to donors to raise matching funds to strengthen their operations.
Look around: Most of the great public universities in this country have attracted huge private support. Most have a level of independence and are governed by strong local boards. There’s every reason to believe these kinds of reforms would help not only the UO, but OSU, PSU and the others.