Oregon’s support for higher ed has increased 4x faster than US average, is now close to median

UO’s Board of Trustees loves to blame our low faculty pay and constant tuition increases on underfunding by our state government. That is no longer true. I wonder who they’ll blame next?

Here’s some data from SHEEO’s latest “State Effort Report”. The median state is Washington, Oregon is 2 spots below. (Note that the skewed distribution means the mean is above the median).

Funding collapsed in the 80s (starting from a high level relative to the US), but since 2010 it has increased by 9%, vs 2% for the rest of the US:

When I came here in 1995, Oregon was a poor state, but incomes are now above the US average. And if you adjust for income, Oregon support is about 12% below the US average, but again close to the median:

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16 Responses to Oregon’s support for higher ed has increased 4x faster than US average, is now close to median

  1. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    It really is a puzzle to me that the UO faculty and its union are so passive when it comes to faculty salaries. It really would be worthwhile to hear a path set out to getting them to decent levels based on sound financial reasoning. It has been ages since anyone has talked about that, as far as I know.

    Here’s a website that claims to tell students “how much bang they are getting for their tuition dollars.” It gives spending on “Instruction — basically, what goes to run the academic departments — compared to net tuition per student. (Be sure to put in the right name of the school from their menu.)


    Some of the comparisons you can make are really startling — e.g. UO vs Oregon State. UO seems to have far more tuition money, and far more net tuition money going to Instruction. But are OSU salaries that much more lame than UO?

    I don’t know how accurate the info is. But UO’s excuses for its crummy salaries would seem to be wearing kinda thin.

    Again, it would take some serious analysis to show how to get UO from where it is to where it should be. But I think it could be done, both the analysis, and the move.

    • uomatters says:

      To quote Professor Harbaugh Senior, “Look, universities have never been about the students. But I can remember when they were at least run for the faculty, not the damn administrators!”

      • honest Uncle Bernie says:

        I used to know old Professor Harbaugh, we saw eye to eye on a lot of things, though he wasn’t as fond of rum as I. But he put this much more pithily than I ever could!

    • Powerball says:

      It would help to have union leadership which was more interested, let alone invested, in the issue.

      • Dog says:

        would you care to elaborate on what exactly you think the
        “issue” is?

        • Powerball says:

          By “the issue” I meant “faculty salaries” as mentioned by HUB. Why do I think union leaders aren’t that interested in salaries? Salaries are fourth out of five on the list of priorities on the bargaining webpage. The raise package the union bargained behind closed doors was pitiful and the union knows it — just look at the way they talk about it in their most recent communication (https://newsletter.uauoregon.org/bargaining-update-for-june-17-2022/):

          “We negotiated a raise package and got it implemented January 1, 2022, bringing that benefit to faculty six months early.”

          That’s the most positive thing they can say about it. And this is supposed to be a “highlight?”

          • Dog says:

            oh yeah I agree

            the initial, retroactive success of the union in 2013 and 2014
            was an illusion which resulted in further delusional thinking about
            future negotiations. As documented in this forum, since 2015,
            union negotiations have resulted in average faculty raises that have been below the west coast inflation rate over this period.

            • Environmental Necessity says:

              Is it your view that the raises would have come sooner or been greater in the absence of the union?

              • Dog says:

                any such speculation would require revisionist history.

                What is known are three things

                1. Retroactive raises/raising the floor, and the other combined
                union actions of 2013/14 were significant and highly successful,
                resulting in many faculty wages at the start of Fall 2014 to be
                15-20% higher than in Fall 2012.

                2. Since 2015 union raises have been slightly below the west
                coast inflation rate (and will be quite below by the end of this year).

                3. CAS did have a systematic plan for significant faculty raises. It had 3 phases to it. Phase 1 was external equity compare to
                comparators. For my dept, at the full professor level, all full professors pay was raised by 6.9% – this was done in May 2011

                -that situation of course had its detractors since newly hired
                faculty were already at external equity so did not get a significant raise.

                The union then was created in 2012 and the CAS process was not allowed to go to phase 2 or 3.

                I think that if the CAS process would have proceeded, overall raises for many faculty would have been higher, but of course we can never know if that would have been indeed the case.

              • Powerball says:

                I agree with Dog’s comment, with two additional points.

                1. If the union wants people to believe that they have done a good job on financials, they would be presenting evidence to support that conclusion. They aren’t.

                2. The existence of the union has given the administration a rhetorical weapon to use with respect to raises. “We can’t give more ATB/Merit/Promotion because the union won’t let us.” Of course, the union says that they aren’t doing such a thing. But why not put language into, say, the promotion or review raise clauses that states explicitly that the Provost has the authority to give higher raises after major reviews?

  2. Townie says:

    2010-2015 seemed quite grim.

    Maybe UO hit rock bottom? Or was that in the 90s?

    About 10 years ago I even heard from a faculty member that admin were considering terminating a prominent master’s program.

  3. It's Classified. says:

    UO still gets the absolute smallest amount though, right? At least per capita?

  4. Related, I made some graphs of state support, fraction of out of state students, etc., a year ago. I’m not going to bother updating them, but all the sources are there if anyone is so inclined. Conclusion: it’s hard to draw simple conclusions.


  5. ODA says:

    I think that Colorado like Oregon approved Tax limitations, in the early 90s so the legislature over the years took a hatchet to post secondary support because it was easy to do.

    Oregon Measure 5

    Colorado TABOR

    Wyoming on the other hand has a low population, and wealth from mining and resource extraction (paying upwards of half the property taxes) I think they also have only one budget that covers all of their post secondary, (the one “university” as well as Community college and trade schools (that support resource extraction)).